opinion

The Importance of Staying Connected

Stephen Yagielowicz

With traffic levels down for many adult websites, it may be easy to think that people aren’t going online anymore, but nothing could be further from the truth: as more folks spend more time on the Internet today than ever before…

Internet World Stats reports that 30 percent of the world’s population is now online, representing an average 480 percent growth during the past decade. That’s a lot of people — well more than 2 billion consumers — and they’re increasingly making the Internet a part of their daily lives, both at work and at home. Lump in the mobile arena and all that it empowers and you can easily see why many consumers would feel “lost” without their virtual umbilical cords — this author included.

While some observers may use the word “addiction” to describe the behavior of some of these folks, one thing is clear: people really enjoy what the Internet brings to their lives — so much so that they are willing to give up otherwise essential comforts to obtain it.

According to a recent survey of 3,000 adults by London’s Science Museum, people today have their priorities askew. Intended to be part of an exhibit at the museum entitled, “Water Wars: Fight The Food Crisis,” the survey sought to highlight the value of clean water for drinking, irrigation and more, by asking its respondents about what they could least live without — perhaps fully expecting “clean water” to be the number one reply.

It wasn’t.

In fact, clean water scored third; after sunshine (of legendary scarcity in London); and having an Internet connection. Indeed, Internet marketers can take comfort in knowing that a certain percentage of the world’s population would rather drink dirty water than go without their online “fix.”

Backing up this assertion is the number of specific online services that respondents view as being the most important thing in their lives, including Facebook, which was ranked fifth; Google ranked 22nd; eBay was number 35; and Twitter, last at number 50.

By comparison, having a refrigerator came in fourth; email was eighth; and a flushing toilet ranked in ninth place; followed by having a mobile phone.

“Brits are obsessed by the weather, so it’s not surprising sunshine was rated as the top thing we couldn’t live without,” Sarah Richardson, the museum’s Exhibition Manager, stated. “But to say you can’t live without material things over drinking water is crazy.”

“It seems having fresh drinking water is something that many of us take for granted but is becoming scarcer in many parts of the world,” Richardson added. “If you see how little water others have to drink or grow food you soon realize water is fast becoming a luxury for millions.”

That may be so, but the survey results make it clear that online access and interaction are not considered “luxuries” by many people, but rather, necessities.

This ravenous consumption of Internet services is not restricted to the Brits, however; as Time magazine reports that American surfers spend more than 53 billion minutes each month perusing Facebook. That’s a lot of time (although it breaks down to approximately 10 minutes per user, per day — a seemingly more reasonable figure).

It’s not simply the raw numbers that are of interest, however, but what people receive from their online activities, that is compelling for marketers. For example, the time spent catching up with family, friends and friendly companies on Facebook or other social sites is an entirely different type of activity than is “surfing the ‘net.”

With social media, folks are seeking community, interaction, a feeling of “belonging” and of “being in the loop” — technology thus transcends something that facilitates daily life to become “daily life” itself — replacing the local bar, church and club time that were once relied upon for socialization.

This of course presents opportunities for online marketers, adult or otherwise; it’s just a matter of understanding consumer’s shifting surfing habits and the emotional, physical, psychological and, yes, sexual needs, that billions of people around the world are trying to satisfy while being exposed to your favorite marketing channel — the Internet.

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