A brand new Pew Research Center survey shows that 21 percent of the American population doesn't use the Internet at all. That's 60 million people!
And, it's not just the old 'digital divide' that's causing folks not to tune out, turn off and power down. According to Pew, the 60 million plus, non-tech heads stay away because:
– They don't have a computer (OK, fine, a digital divide)
– It's too expensive (Fine. The damn divide again, but wait….)
– It's too difficult or frustrating
– They think it's a waste of time
– They don't have access (Fine. Divide.)
– They're too busy (That response fascinates me. The Web's a huge time saver for this blogger.)
– They don't need or want it (Put that in your social media pipe and smoke it)
– They're too old to learn (So much for these old dogs learning new tricks)
– They reported having a bad experience with Ed Moed's 'MeasuringUP' blog (Now, that makes sense).
Simultaneously, Pew reports the Internet's explosive growth has finally slowed. Sixty-six percent of respondents reported having a high-speed Internet connection at home which is up just marginally from the 63 percent saying the same thing last year.
So, here's my question: knowing that some 60 million Americans aren't using the Internet at all, why are we not seeing opinion pieces on the subject? PR Week, PR News, Holmes and the other industry trades are filled to the brim with the latest, greatest, social media case studies, features and announcements. And everyone's arguing about which marketing discipline deserves to lead the social media discourse. But, what about the huge market that doesn't want or need the Internet? Don't our journalists owe us thinking on the subject?
Lost in the social media land rush mentality is the reasoned approach a person such as our very own Sam Ford takes. He's never suggested the Internet is the ‘be-all end-all’ for each and every client. Instead, he urges they first LISTEN before acting. Listening would enable clients and agencies alike to uncover the 60 million non-Internet users who, I guarantee, are a core constituent audience for lots and lots of organizations. And, once one has listened, one can determine the best strategies with which to engage.
So, the next time you're in a new business pitch and the prospect asks about your firm's social media strategy, turn the tables and ask what her organization's plan is to reach the 60 million Americans who aren't using the web. Ask her if she's taken the time to listen to the non-Internet users. If nothing else, it will differentiate you from every other agency in the pitch who, I guarantee, will do nothing but wax poetic about their digital capabilities.