What Would Marshall McLuhan Say?

While in college I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion of communication theorists featuring Marshall McLuhan and Walter Ong.  To jog your memory, Marshall McLuhan is the guy who said “The medium is the massage,”   i.e., each medium produces a different “massage” or “effect” on the human sensorium (the place in the human brain to which impressions from the external world are conveyed and perceived). He also had a cameo role in Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall.”

So enough with the background … Assuming social media is not a “medium” by rather an aggregation of  community conversation mostly viewed on personal/individual communication devices, (e.g. computer screens, cell phone screens, portable notebook screens, etc.); often having a different format, (e.g. Facebook page, Twitter tweet, YouTube video); how do the various channels of social media affect (massage) the way the world is perceived (observed; recognized; understood; felt; sensed; realized; etc.), and what does that mean for us as marketers?

I am not talking about the significant body of work saying increased viewing of computer screens leads to obesity and bad backs.  Having a bad back or being obese may have an effect on how I view the world, but that is not what I am interested it.  I’m interested in how social media impacts the way the world “shows up” for people, and how that dictates/affects their behavior in it.

This answer may be above my pay grade, so here are a few questions to begin the conversation:

  • If most conversations using social media are a series of monologues, e.g. I talk, then you talk, then I talk, then you talk, without body language or interruptions, am I likely to shy away from actual physical contact during communication because the form/forum is less predictable and controlled, i.e. less safe?
  • Will people begin to demonstrate an openness to the world because much of their personal information is already in play, so why not?
  • Will the physical shopping experience become an exercise in frustration with its limited information (salesperson) and limited inventory (on the shelves), compared to online available information/discussion and inventory, and will most people move from the point of sale to the point of convenience?
  • Will social media lead to an “Island” mentality where people can survive perfectly well with little or limited physical social contact?

I’m not quite sure what the answers are, but I am convinced social media will have a much greater impact on marketers then just the obvious buying and servicing online.

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About bobcouch

Bob Couch is the president of OROGEN Marketing in Menlo Park, CA. During his almost 30 year career he has worked with some the the biggest brands in the world, and several Silicon Valley startups. OROGEN Marketing provides a comprehensive set of marketing tools to help their clients grow big, and bigger.
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