An article in the Washington Post, "Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning and skimming, researchers say," got us thinking: What impact, if any, might this change in the way we process information in the digital, social media age impact cleantech marketing? We'll share our thoughts in a minute, but first, here are a few key points from the Post article.
- "Humans...seem to be developing digital brains with new circuits for skimming through the torrent of information online. This alternative way of reading is competing with traditional deep reading circuitry developed over several millennia.
- "If the rise of nonstop cable TV news gave the world a culture of sound bites, the Internet, Wolf said, is bringing about an eye byte culture. Time spent online — on desktop and mobile devices — was expected to top five hours per day in 2013 for U.S. adults, according to eMarketer, which tracks digital behavior. That’s up from three hours in 2010."
- "The Internet is different. With so much information, hyperlinked text, videos alongside words and interactivity everywhere, our brains form shortcuts to deal with it all — scanning, searching for key words, scrolling up and down quickly. This is nonlinear reading, and it has been documented in academic studies."
This has numerous implications for marketing cleantech. For instance, as a recent Cision webinar, "Why PR Needs to Own Content Marketing," pointed out, potential customers today acquire information much differently than they used to. Whereas in the past they might have gotten it from books, the newspaper, or a magazine, today they're getting it increasingly from social media - Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn Pulse, etc. That means you've got to find the platforms your current or potential customers are on, and communicate with them there.
You also need to consider the optimal ways to reach these folks, for starters by providing interesting, relevant content in a user-friendly manner. For instance, a good infographic or other piece of "shareable content" can be highly effective on Facebook and other social media platforms. Keep in mind that on social media, everyone's an "influencer," in the sense that they have hundreds of friends who will see their thoughts on your industry, product or service. That means you certainly can't just focus on journalists anymore.
Another recent webinar, Content Marketing for Solar Companies by SEIA, explained that "72% of online adults in the U.S. use social networking sites, representing a huge potential market" for your cleantech business. But again, you've got to know how to use social media effectively, especially keeping in mind the findings discussed in the Washington Post article. For instance, since people tend to move quickly and "skim" online, it's more important than ever to make it easy for people to take your content and use the parts that are useful to them.
The SEIA webinar specifically recommended visual content, given that images are highly compelling to people, that people are very busy, an that there are "huge differences between the way the brain processes visual information and text" (e.g., the brain processes visual images 60,000 times faster than text). When designing your visual content, such as an infographic, SEIA's experts recommend making it eye-catching, informative, with a powerful "hook" or "a-ha moment." It also should tell a story - one with a beginning, middle and end - and should be easily shareable (e.g., via embed code the reader can copy and paste).
Anyway, those are just a few thoughts on how cleantech marketing is changing in our fast-moving, increasingly digital world. In an "eye byte culture," where people are online more than 5 hours per day - scanning for interesting, entertaining information and looking to share with friends - you've got to adapt if you're going to communicate effectively. And that's certainly the case with regard to communicating the many benefits of cleantech.