Look, I’m not about to start preaching to you.  I don’t think I need to.  If you’re reading this, then I think it’s safe to assume you are fairly technically literate, and switched on to most forms of social media.  I shan’t bother then, to run through the list of sites, services and points of interaction you could or should be using in your day to day life.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”365″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFZ0z5Fm-Ng[/youtube]

Don’t you just love facts and stats like those in this video?  There are many more just like this, and they all serve to show that it’s big.  Really big, and growing exponentially.  If there were any doubts, and there always are, then this should make you think.

Maybe I’m not very typical, but let me give you an insight into my household.  There are 5 networked pc’s in my house, 3 laptops and several internet connected games consoles.  All hooked up to a 50Gig broadband connection, we also have a range of handheld devices.  No1 son (aged 20 last Thursday) uses an iPhone and a netbook.  He built a monster gaming pc from scratch, and uses it to record and edit music and video of his band.  This content is then sent spiralling online via all the usual channels, youtube, iTunes, Facebook, MySpace etc (the list is almost endless).  No2 son (aged 17) also has an iPhone, but is the least connected of the three.  He uses MSN Messenger and old school texting, but refuses to use any other SM sites, and never checks his email.  No3 son is only 8.  He mostly uses the pc connected to the big TV to meet and play with friends on Disney’s Club Penguin, watch and make Lego animations for Youtube, and Webcam me at work when he gets home from school.  His latest toy is a wifi enabled DSi XL, which he uses to browse the internet, webcam connect with cousins abroad, and play games online.

Her indoors doesn’t do any of these things, and has no inclination to.

So my three sons and I, covering a wide age range, think nothing of casually wandering on and offline throughout the day.  There is a complete blurring of the line, but we have become very choosy due to the scale of available choice.  If something doesn’t work immediately and intuitively, it is quickly passed by in favour of something better.  It is a perpetually evolving landscape, where services are consumed and discarded easily, on a day by day basis.

My point in telling you all this, isn’t to advertise my home to burglars, but to show that behind all the impressive stats are real people, browsing, selecting and consuming.  We are very discriminating, and “good enough” isn’t good enough anymore.  The bar for companies operating online is being raised every day, and reinvention and recalibration to your market cannot be done by annual review.  This a very fast flowing river, and few have the luxury of sitting on the bank. Sailors will tell you that a boat without power and forward momentum is impossible to steer, and will soon run aground.  However, by thinking past the technology bells and whistles, and focusing on individual users, it is very possible to find and engage with a willing audience.  Users don’t dwell on the technology, and so long as it works, you needn’t either.  Solve a problem or meet a need with effective simplicity, and you can find yourself very much in demand.

Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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