In Praise Of Lazy

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As excited as you and I are about Digital Marketing and Social Media, don’t ever lose sight of the fact that most people are not and will not ever really care.

We used to talk about the 1% rule – that only one percent of an active audience will actually take the time to create content. That number has probably shifted higher because creating content is much easier and can be done in short order. It doesn’t take long to pump out a 140 character tweet on Twitter, and it’s equally easy to upload a picture or even your status on Facebook. Platforms like LinkedIn make it simple to create content by allowing people to not only update their status, but to also answer questions. It doesn’t take much to "like" something on Facebook or give a YouTube video a thumbs up (or down).

Still, the masses don’t care.

I recently overheard two people talking about Twitter. It went something like this:

  • Person #1: "How many people do you follow on Twitter?"
  • Person #2: "Only a couple of hundred."
  • Person #1: "Do you ever talk to them?"
  • Person #2: "You can talk to people?"
  • Person #1: "Yeah, you use the @ sign and then they know you’re replying to something they said."
  • Person #2: "Why would I want to do that?"

I can’t make this stuff up.

If the amount of people who open a Twitter account but hardly use it isn’t staggering to you (more on that here: Twitter users not so social after all), imagine the percentage of people on places like Facebook, YouTube and beyond who don’t even understand the basics of how to get the most out of their online experience. It’s not an indictment on the good work we’re all doing, it’s a reality.

How much work do you want to do?

There was a lot of buzz the other week about Digg and their all-new redesign (which included some additional site functionality). Many people think that Digg is doing this because their traffic is plummeting and they’re loosing relevancy in the marketplace (or that they’re trying to be more attractive to brands and advertisers). It’s not that. The Digg model is simply not something that the masses care about. Meaning: people just want the news. They want it well-produced (in text, images, audio and video) and they want it filtered and edited. Most people come home after a long day of work and they want to unwind. They don’t want to scour the Web for information, create a profile, upload a link, Digg it, comment on it, share it, promote it or talk about it on Twitter and Blogs.

It’s all in the balance.

Don’t be upset that the masses all don’t have Google Alerts or have a news reader set-up on their desktop. Most people are not going to download a Twitter client like TweetDeck or Seesmic Desktop so that they can have a Nasdaq-esque screen flowing constantly with each and every tweet that is related to their lives. Most people are mass media lazy. They’re used to sitting back and letting the media wash over them (from a TV sitcom to an article in Vanity Fair). They want to be entertained. They want to forget about their work day. They’re not interested in working more or creating their own media. The balance comes in recognizing both types of people. The balance comes in creating media (as a brand) that appeals to those who just want the information versus those who want to do something with that same information.

Do you think this is going to change – and that people will become more active – or are we all just too stuck in our ways?


  1. Good morning Mitch,
    Personally I think it’s going to be two fold when it comes to our media consumption.
    For some people (I fell more than 1%), our media consumption has become refined as we see the benefits of building our own media channels, either in YouTube, Google Reader, or Facebook. More people are spending more time online, especially on Facebook, where your “News Feed” is your number 1 landing page.
    However, for others, (and I would agree the majority), they are still just wanting to sit in the lazy-boy, flick on the TV and see what they get. Why? well as Seth Godin would say “They want the Map.” It’s much easier to choose when you don’t have to.
    Now, another interesting point is the combination of lazy with a little more engagement. I don’t personally watch a lot of TV, but there has been ads for either networks or TVs (mostly in the US) that can pull in the internet. One such ad says has a man talking about how he can watch his favorite Football team, while pulling in stats on this team, and checking out how he’s doing in his fantasy Football league.
    Although he might not be building his media station, he certainly is contributing to it.
    Is this the way we introduce more people? Or is this just a gimmick to sell more subscriptions and newer TVs?
    As always, another excellent post

  2. Hi Mitch,
    Like in any area, I think that people will have motivation when there’s something in it for them! Like Josh points out in a previous comment, the ad that deals with Fantasy Football is one of those ideas that “moves the potato forward”, to mesh a few fun phrases together.
    A lot of this goes towards the Social Commerce angle. How many people are signing up for Twitter or liking a Facebook page for companies like Groupon? Since there’s such a compelling benefit to following sites like Groupon, the potato moves.
    Much like the internet transition from the dark AOL days to always on connections, once it becomes so easy to do Social Media people will gravitate. It may not be called Social Media, but it will be one and the same. So I agree that most people won’t care, but they will be doing it nonetheless!
    Keep up the good work!

  3. I think that most of the people who aren’t active now will continue to be passive in the future. So it’s the media that is going to have to change. Perhaps in the future, these people will have the option to simply turn on their computer, have the computer ask them what they would like to do, e.g. send a short message to a friend, and then have the computer automatically “decide” whether Twitter, IM, or e-mail, for example, is the best way of doing this.

  4. Hey Mitch,
    It’s my first foray and I very much like what I see. And this is by no means a knock but playing the role of a layman (which I am not), I found it ironic that under your post re: people don’t care are your related posts with one of them being titled “The Best Way To Grow An Audience And Build Your Community” and another called “6 Ways To Get Organized And Centralized With Social Media.”
    The layman and cynic would argue how can you tell me no one cares on one hand and on the other tell me how to build my audience and get organized.
    If no one cares… why bother?
    Just an observation from an over-caffeinated creative fool…

  5. The masses are lazy? They don’t care? How about that unlike the so-called “thought leaders”, “change agents”, “consultants” and “influencers” running amok on social media, most people have real jobs – the ones you punch in to @ 9am and punch out at 5pm (if they’re lucky). When they get home, it’s dinner time and thereafter, they gotta take the kids to soccer, softball, ballet practice.
    For “the masses”, their focus is on keeping their jobs, getting that promotion, paying the mortgage, spending time with their families, having a drink with their buddies at the bowling alley on a Friday night. And, oh yes, checking who sent them a message on facebook when they get a free minute.
    Nuff said.

  6. Hi, Mitch…I think one of the challenges is figuring out how to filter everything. I’m relatively new to Twitter and trying to figure out the best way to bring value to my Followers and drive new business. I find it very challenging to keep track of the small number of people I’m following and constantly wonder how the people following thousands of people do it.
    I’ve had some Twitter discussion with thought leaders on how to drive business and drive traffic to my blog and website. I struggle to get Comments and responses to my various social-media efforts, particularly when it comes to asking what value I should be striving to bring to them.
    Many of my peers (45+ senior executives — employed and unemployed/self-employed) aren’t on Twitter and will probably never be on Twitter. Many of those people are also my target audience, so the struggle is trying to figure out if the juice is worth the squeeze.
    Thanks for raising the issue

  7. This is good to chew on today. A lot of people don’t care about digital marketing. The easier and less complicating something is the better. Your average person isn’t going to be following several hashtags or search terms on Twitter nor commenting on everything. They’re going to scan and move on.

  8. As someone who thinks about doctors in the social space this post has real relevance. When it comes to the design and structure of platforms for physicians we often assume that other doctors want to do what I do: keep an eye on tweetdeck and create content. This isn’t the case but understanding where docs want to be and at what level is the challenge. Look for more formal extrapolation on 33 charts later today or tomorrow!

  9. Minute Maid fruit punch – I buy it. I drink it. I like it. I don’t want to follow Minute Maid. I don’t want to be friends with Minute Maid. I don’t want to make a video about how much I love Minute Maid. Just keep supplying the product and I’ll give Minute Maid my money. That’s the be-all end-all of our relationship.
    Digital marketing is all well and good, but how come many companies just assume that we actually *want* to be social with them in a two-way conversation? Most don’t. No one cares. You’re more likely to shift me away from your product by annoying me with kooky marketing campaigns. Stop it.
    Depending on the product though, there is room for substantive & value-driven educational models in digital marketing. I’m much more likely to use Adobe software titles if they produce high quality tutorials, how-tos, videos, etc. to help me get more out of my experience with their product. Content marketing is definitely worthwhile.
    Even then, you’re not going to hear from me. I’m not going to comment. I’m not going to answer a long survey. I’m not going to read your weekly promotional updates. I’ll let you know when I need additional help or something with your product goes wrong. Until then, just give me what I need and then get out of my face. I don’t care about you enough to waste my time with “conversation”.
    For the overwhelming majority of the public, social media is about broadcasting valuable content (one-way, often) and offering customer service (two-way, sparingly) and I don’t think this will truly ever change.
    Sometimes it’s just a glass of fruit punch after all, right?

  10. I’m not sure if laziness is worthy of being praised but mass resistance to creating content on social media is worthy of recognition.
    I had a conversation about this topic just this weekend at the Montreal Podcamp – about just how insular we 1% were.
    My passion for social media comes from the belief that it will eventually encourage and facilitate more participation in all aspects of our lives; home, work, politics etc..
    Many of our business clients believe that social media marketing is just about putting a new coat of paint on a old house. They don’t understand that it’s a new “house” all together.
    The change will come. As we learned about mass media in school and how to read commercials, students will learn how to participate in the new media. But some will never get it. Some don’t vote, some don’t exercise, some don’t know who our head of state is.
    More than half of my friends aren’t “connected”. Of those that are, the majority have let their profiles lay dormant. My husband still can’t figure out the remote control. What can say?
    Thanks for the Monday mind exercise.

  11. Mitch, good to be reminded of this, thanks. We can get caught up in our own little world and forget how little the rest of the universe cares or understands the nuances that we take for granted. We pat each other on the back and share some high fives while the masses shrug.
    And the opportunity is still significant for those that can consistently create compelling content, cause in the end, the biggest difference between two websites, blogs or whatever, are the words on the page. In this crowded text-world, standing out from the rest is increasingly our biggest challenge.

  12. I think there are some people who just want to consume and that’s fine. Honestly, I manage social media for a living now, and I also have a saturation limit where I switch things off for a bit of time.
    Some people will create and engage. Most will not and that’s fine. I essentially agree that it’s finding that balance.
    You’ve got to find what will appeal to someone who will RT, comment on or share your content versus those who will be more passive and merely read it and think “good article” or “great opinion”. There are many who won’t even do that, so that’s where traditional advertising will continue to have significant impact.

  13. Not sure I’d call them “lazy.” Not caring isn’t lazy, it’s not caring. Lazy is caring but without any energy to do anything about it. πŸ™‚
    That said, I do think eventually virtually everyone will be doing the “social media” thing. In fact, we probably won’t call it that someday (“social media”) because it’ll be so ubiquitous. Think of it this way. When the first humans started speaking 10,000 years ago, I bet not everyone partook in the activity. Some were afraid of it. Some couldn’t figure out how to do it. Others didn’t understand what others were saying and tuned out. But over time it became clearly to a human’s advantage to speak to each other. And they did. All of them.
    I believe the same will be true of “social media.” It won’t be a way, it’ll be the way we communicate, connect and live our lives in real time. Thanks for another great post.

  14. I have to agree with Dan – for many people, it isn’t just that important compared to the demands of the real world. I spent the weekend exhibiting at an art fair, and I was surprised at how many people said they had left Facebook because they spent there whole days working in front of a computer, and the last thing they wanted to do was get on the computer after work.
    Thanks again for a great and realistic look at social media.

  15. Gee, and I thought for a second there that only us folks in the (digital) marketing world only talked to ourselves πŸ˜‰
    I suppose this boils down to two fundamental things: experience and intent.
    I had this conversation on Twitter just today with someone about social media being an ecosystem versus a channel, the point being that channels, tools, outlets, technologies, etc. mean nothing unless they are connected to something bigger, and that something must both inform and entertain, something that culminates in an experience.
    The experience delivers on an intent, or a series of intentions – to share, to interact, to collaborate, etc.
    Whether we’re watching TV, attending an event or conversing online, we all need a reason – perhaps one or several that change the way we think or feel. Sometimes we get that from each other, most often that access just gets cluttered with… stuff (or crap).
    SO, laziness is perhaps a matter of not feeling connected, and a function of the expectation that we might rely on specific channels to feel connected. I would venture to guess, however, that if there is enough inspiration behind the intent to act, then we (as in those who are NOT superusers) might feel more inclined to seek the balance you speak of πŸ˜‰

  16. So true!
    When people are online most behave lazy and want to be served. If there’s an obvious button they need to click (and their reason) they are more likely to click it. In any medium there will be any a small percentage who really consume all the content to the highest level – how many TV viewers have a full cable package on digital with a PVR?
    Like any mass media – in social media a small percentage may want to use the platform controls to customize their experience to their needs (make it easier to use it to their advantage, efficiently), but most people won’t. Most people don’t know how to find the free expert instructions, step by step on video, audio or text on how to put up a free Facebook Fan Page for their business, or to use the FB Like Buttons or who to engage their business with humans or any of the other free, somewhat simple apps/tools.
    Despite how few people ‘care’ about social media today, every day as the conversations continue, new people are questioning why they waited to get into social media and start using it to their advantage. Almost everyone is on the internet somewhere at work/home or school and there will always be large parts of the population who really only catchup to advancements every few years – the people who push the social media conversation in their field/specialty now are the ones who will be looked to (followed) when they’re working to catchup later – that later could be today!

  17. We’re sort of seeing this already (albeit in a very nascent way) with the adoption of the iPad. It’s primary use is a consumption device but it makes simple interactive activities (Twitter, a quick email or note) highly usable, quick and easy.

  18. Because it’s not a zero sum game. For the millions of people watching America’s Got Talent right now, there’s a handful of people (like you) who are playing with more interactive channels (like commenting on a Blog post). The challenge is when one side (passive or active) thinks that it is a zero sum game.
    Who says anybody, anywhere wants interactive TV… maybe they just want better quality shows to sit back and enjoy?

  19. Never be a market of one. The over 35 crowd during business hours are the highest number of Twitter users (according to the last set of stats I saw – which was a while back).
    That being said, if your Social Media game plan is really all about closing more business, you should focus more on the area of content you’re the best at producing, make sure your content is super focused and then get all head down into delivering real value.
    If your content resonates with the audience, you’ll know.

  20. It’s all about the strategy and how the brand resonates with the consumer. If you can find the right formula (strategy) and really deliver additional value – where you’re putting in more than you’re trying to extract, there can be a lot of value and care from consumers.
    You’re right, not everyone will want to be engaged with Minute Maid… but some might, and we don’t want that group to feel like their voices are being unanswered. It’s all about finding the healthy balance.

  21. The amazing thing here is that with all of these new channels and platforms, we have choices… and we don’t have to choose everything. Prior to the Internet, I was one of those people who would go to the magazine store every week looking for more content to devour, so this Web thing have been revolutionary for me. It’s probably a lot less important to the person who picks up a copy of People Magazine the one time a year they have a flight.

  22. In a world that has gone well beyond three major television broadcasting networks, we have to understand/embrace that even something with million of views is still very niche. Not a day goes by that I don’t see a video on YouTube that has over 20 million views that I had never seen before.
    We live in a new world of niches.

  23. It’s good to have a pause in the hubbub to regroup with a discussion like this. I tend to agree with Dan P. in that “most people” are not the people who read about, engage in, or study social media tools and trends (or post on blogs like this!). I frequently notice how we are heavily influenced by our immediate environment. Our perceptions are skewed and don’t necessarily match that of the world at large. As an “interested” outsider myself, I’m not quite “lazy” about my participation in the new media world, but from my vantage point there seems to be a frenzy in the mosh pit. The reality is most people couldn’t care less or are even aware what’s playing on stage.
    I find Natsia’s comment most intriguing in this chain of comments. The analogy that comes to mind is haute couture. It’s an industry of fashionistas who passionately discourse designers and trends and gasp blankly in confusion (or disgust) when Jane does not know or care who or what Louboutin is. (How could that BE!?) I agree that we are experiencing a sociological shift driven by technology, but people aren’t lazy about change… they’re rational consumers. It’s the innovators’ task to make it utterly compelling to “purchase” the products their selling. Whether the cost is time or money, people ultimately make economic decisions about behaviors and purchases. Real people that is – not just the technorati.

  24. The balance is in creating compelling content while having that higher level of engagement. Brands still need to get more comfortable digging in deep with the smaller amount of people who are wildly enthusiastic about their brand and really just want a lot more connectivity.

  25. So, do you see a day where Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus is no more? A day where everybody is interacting and being social all of the time? I wonder if we can truly evolve to that or if there will always be the mass majority who like their content from the consumption side instead of the creational aspects of it.

  26. For a long time I’ve felt that social media, like any new technology, would be subject to run its course through the idea diffusion curve (innovators, early adopters, early majority, etc.). To a large extent, you can make that argument and can try to identify where the adoption of social media is on that curve and then reliably predict its future integration into society as a result.
    For an example, think of the progression of the DVD player when it first came out. Only a select few bought them at first, but slowly and surely it progressed through that curve to the point where my Grandpa, a laggard by any definition, calls me to ask how to operate his DVD player.
    But maybe I’m looking at this in the wrong way. Maybe social media is more accurately labeled as a “behavior” than a new “technology”. Regardless of how far social media technology progresses through the idea diffusion curve, some people will never truly engage with it. It’s not like you can go buy “social media” at a store and then call yourself a social media user. It’s not that simple. Engaging social media is a change in behavior, not just an adoption of a new technology.
    (All in all, as always, there’s a medium in the middle. It would be arrogant to say that new technology cannot alter a society’s behavior and vice versa.)

  27. For every person that leaves Facebook, there is someone else who joins. For every person attending an art exhibit there is someone new downloading a Podcast for the first time. I think the value we derive out of these channels are not to be judged based on our own, personal values. One person’s art exhibit is another person’s Blog… it’s all good.

  28. I absolutely agree with you. That is how it has always been and will most likely always be. I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes: “2% of people think, 3% THINK they think and 95% would rather DIE than think”. There is the truth behind why most are passive receivers and not interactive.
    Back in the days when I still had a J.O.B. at I.B.M. they called a meeting one day to announce that we were now empowered. It was all I could not to laugh. We were always as “empowered” as we individually chose to be and announcing otherwise is futile.

  29. To extend that thought further, think about a comedy movie: aren’t events like that much more fun to see with a large audience (movie theater) than at home? There’s something that pulls us towards sharing common events.

  30. It’s also going to be interesting to see how this transition continues as newer platforms like Apple TV and Google TV come into the market. We’ll be able to better tell what percentage of our population truly wants an interactive versus a passive experience.

  31. Part of the trick then is to demystify everything we all do – to take out the mystery and not have that veneer of superiority. You’ll note that the platforms that are successful are the ones who make it both easy and simple to do (Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Google, etc…). Clutter, confusion and too much functionality usually drives the consumer away.
    Our job as Marketers is to not make this channel look like a black box, but to keep it open and understandable.

  32. I wonder what a Behavior Diffusion Curve would like and I also wonder how this layers on top of and next to the other media channels? Because one does not takeover the other – that all live in harmony and people exhibit both passive and active behaviors.

  33. They were hoping that by telling you this, you would become it. Most people know they’re empowered but they choose to let others influence that behavior instead of really letting people be empowered. It’s also hard to do this because many people – all of the time and every day – assume the mindset that it’s not up to them, but their boss.

  34. Human beings have always been social. The only thing that evolves is how we do it. So, to answer your question, yes I do see everyone being social except people who are innately shy. There have always been shy people, too! πŸ™‚

  35. My belief that people are lazy comes from this: (they are all also big offline media investors – driving their own competitive Google investment marketplace)
    This Summer I was allocating budgets to Google SEM, to capture the internet searches created by my coworker’s offline traditional advertising campaigns. 30 seconds (TV or radio) is never enough to get to a purchase decision, so people look for more info – we include URLs direct to the brand page on ads, but people still go to Google first and type in any brand or promotional keywords they remember from the commercial.
    So I wonder, at what point does traditional/offline spending no longer push increased Google searches (and higher ad spending to insure/secure our TV & other offline media investments?) or is there even a tipping point?

  36. what if we hugged our kids, our spouse, had a f#cking original idea? drank green tea? smiled at a stranger.
    for too too many this just isn’t a part of the matrix.

  37. I’m inclined to think there will always be large numbers of people who are social media lazy. Some lack natural curiosity. There really are some people who don’t start naturally clicking on things, thinking, “I wonder what this is!”. Some people make a choice not to produce content – It’s time consuming. The reasons why go on and on. Lots of people really are a little lazy. Some of us still have to question a little whether we have anything of value to say on twitter. πŸ˜‰ Ah, but birds of a feather flock together. We’re just a small flock!

  38. Today 2 of 3 US Consumers will not be using Twitter or Facebook.
    Nabisco Cookie Fan Page has 0.08% of the estimated 600 Mil customers (my guess could be twice as big making these numbers twice as pitiful) as Fans (527,000). Of the fans 0.02-0.09% engage per Fan Page post by the company (100-500). And they get 10 to 20 unsolicited wall posts.
    On a similar note I heard Scott Monty helped pre-book 30,000 Ford Fiestas. That is $330mil in sales. That is huge for him. He should get a $1mil bonus. But Ford needs to sell probably 100,000 per year in the US. So while I won’t sneeze at 0.24% of sales booked through that program for 2010 how do they sustain it? And how many of those pre-bookings were booking anyway?
    New Media is not moving the needle for sales…yet. Not saying it isn’t helping with customer sentiment, some retention and loyalty building, and lowering R&D costs. But it is not making it into the C level of consciousness. Those people are paid on stock price. And they know they could be gone tomorrow so the ROI is found elsewhere as of today.

  39. Social media involvement is definitely something that marketing people are interested in more than anyone else. However, I think we’re still in the early adopter stage. There are people getting involved with the companies they purchase from. We’ve been doing the lazy media thing for the past 50+ years. It’s going to take some time to make the shift. But I believe that the majority will cross over.

  40. I prefer not to focus on how many people are doing what. I prefer to focus on who is doing what. The idea is to use the channel to focus on the right people and grow the channel by adding more of the right people.

  41. I don’t think that they will cross over. I think there will be instances of passive media, instances of creational media and some other little components in-between. I’m hoping passive media doesn’t go away. I love sitting back, watching a great documentary and getting lost in the story.

  42. I am 50 and my demographic has taken some flack for being slow to social networking and slow with technology, but I am not seeing that connection. From 15 to 60, what I see around me is similar to what Dan wrote. People’s real social interactions trump the virtual world. Their jobs, educational endeavors, families, activities, and personal lives rule.
    To take it a step further, in addition to the time and priorities factors, people I know site privacy as a big concern when it comes to social media. In the real world, there is very little audit trail for social interaction but online is different. For those on the FB fence, Facebook’s negative press about privacy (whether real or not) has been enough to keep some people I know away from the action.
    While being open and connected and traceable may be an advantage for marketers, it may not be viewed the same way by people who, in a questionable economy (or not), fear they could jeopardize their future by having an online history that could be judged down the road.
    I would be interested in the breakdown of social media usage by age+employment status (self-employed, unemployed, employed) along with a bunch of other subcatagories. Personally, when it comes to social media, I see business owners and retirees being the least inhibited in my age bracket. No current or future boss is looking over their shoulder.
    On the flip-side, I see job-seekers taking their Facebook identities offline when they are interviewing.
    Non-marketing social media types who take up daily time and space with no real message other than verbose details of their lives: well, they’re marketers too–of themselves–like only a narcissist would do.
    In the end, we all spend an inordinate amount of our time these days filtering: phone calls, emails, snail mail, search engine criteria, TV shows, music, video, advertising, and now social networking. Do you blame some people for opting out and wanting simplicity in their lives?
    It’s not about laziness. It’s about quality of life. That is subjective. For some social media improves their quality of life. For others, not.

  43. Agreed, but I would push that further and say it’s not a zero-sum game. You can have both. You can be both active in Facebook but still appreciate the time to have a coffee with a close friend. The point is that it’s not all about being connected in Social Media or about being disconnected because time is better spent with family. As with all things, it’s about moderation.
    As for age and demographics, I’m not buying it (I never had). I think you’re spot on: it’s not about how old an individual is… it’s about their attitude.

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