Feed the Beast: Enabling Mobile Addiction

Last spring, numerous media outlets reported that a leading NFL quarterback prospect cost himself millions by compulsively texting and tweeting during pre-draft meetings.  While some might see that behavior as typical of a self-indulgent, spoiled star athlete, I don’t think it is that far outside the norm.  In fact, I’ve been in dozens of meetings recently during which someone spent much of the discussion staring down at their smart phone or iPad, absorbed by something else. This behavior isn’t just limited to diva-esque football stars or multi-tasking agency strivers, though. I just saw a local TV news interview in which the man-in-the-street accident witness twice halted his on-air comments to check his smart phone. He was unemployed.

Examples of mobile media addiction are everywhere. From teenagers who can’t go to bed without their iPhone, to customers who can’t purchase anything without vetting the price online, to social media fanatics who incessantly capture and post their every move, thought and expression, we are surrounded by mobile media interaction. For better or worse, it is the definitive technology of 2013.

So is this a bad thing? Yes! Well, probably. OK, maybe. Certainly, there are aspects of it that drive me crazy.  As a society, we seem to be getting less courteous, less focused and markedly more self-absorbed.  And our writing is atrocious. (Yes, I blame texting. And Twitter.)

However, sociological arguments aside, destination marketers would be insane to ignore the mobile tsunami and all its related ripples. Every day, new research documents how the mobile monster is devouring the media world. Did you know smart phone use grew 81% in 2012?  That 52 % of consumers have used a mobile device to book travel in the last 90 days? Or that mobile Internet use will overtake fixed Internet access by 2014?  (As in, six months from now…)

Certainly, it is incumbent on anyone who is in a parenting or mentoring role to try to tame this monster, and instill some basic mobile etiquette (like remembering to look someone in the eye and when they are talking to you.) However, as marketers it is incumbent on us to harness this monster.  Don’t let your organization create a website, microsite, e-newsletter, e-release or digital anything that isn’t mobile optimized ever again.  While this seems obvious, the oh-so-predictable “limited budget” argument against mobile optimization will likely still come up.  Don’t accept it! In fact, turn it on its ear; if you can’t afford to optimize, you can’t afford to do it, period. 

Does this make us enablers of mobile addiction? On a personal level, we can and should fight against it. Teach your kids, staffers, etc. to use mobile media in a non-addictive way. On a professional level… as destination marketers we would be doing our constituents a disservice if we did not embrace the mobile reality. Make sure your site is optimized for mobile use and social media interaction. Feed the beast!

Updated July 3, 2013