BEHAVIOR CHANGE IN THE OLD AND NEW ERA
New Techniques for Audience Engagement
By Bill Goodwill & Ken Fischer1
Does anyone know when the line was crossed between the old media and
the new media? Was it when people were able to send “Amber Alerts”
via the cell phone to alert people that there was a child molester in
Was it when You Tube allowed everyone to have their thirty seconds
of fame by posting their favorite videos online in full color and decent
sound? Or was it when some genius geeks invented things such as iGoogle,
Netvibes, Pageflakes, SpringWidgets, yourminis, Flickr, social networks,
blogs, RSS feeds, podcasts, wikis and personal homepages on sites like
MySpace and Facebook?
The answer is….nobody knows. And nobody knows how all these new
terms and communications techniques will affect the world around us
in the future. The very moment this article is published, it will be
completely out of date. That is how fast things are changing. However,
at the risk of trying to stop technology for just a moment to figure
out how these new trends will affect most of us, we would like to make
a few fundamental observations. We believe these basic truths will serve
all of us well in the years ahead as we watch the transformation of
mass media to something much more personal.
First, the background – why should we care about these trends?
According to a recent research report, interactive marketing in the U.S. will
reach $77 billion by 2016. The big fish are
already starting to swallow the minnows, as indicated by the purchase
of YouTube by Google, and the purchase of Instagram by Facebook.
these facts alone: Facebook currently has more than 500 million active
users worldwide. You Tube has 1 billion unique users each month. Google has
three billion searches daily. With audiences such as these, all of us have to sit
up and pay attention to the new world of media. Perhaps more importantly,
many of these new social media sites are being used to educate the public
about important social issues and bringing people all over the world
together to address them in meaningful ways. That is the real power
of this new media world.
Other facts to consider from a survey conducted by Cone and Opinion
51% of women feel a stronger connection with a brand if they
interact with it via social media
Over 50% of men feel a company better serves them when they
interact with it via social media
Just under 20% of men interact with companies via social
media twice or more a week
Changing Media Landscape
The media landscape itself is changing faster than our ability to adapt
to it, with new media popping up like mushrooms in a pasture field. When
you pump gas you may see a video screen with programming and commercials.
If you go to the restroom, there may be signs in the stalls.
When you work out at the health spa, there likely will be signs and
video monitors throughout the gym. Banks, supermarkets, commercial buildings,
airports, airplanes, shopping carts, parking lots and almost every other
public space is being used to promote products, services and causes.
If one is successful in getting their message out in all of these venues
simultaneously, then over time, the desired behavior change may take
place. But that would take a huge budget that most non-profits do not
have. Most non-profits must rely on earned media, Public Service Announcements
(PSAs) and guerilla marketing tactics to get their message out to their
Fortunately using new media or Web 2.0 techniques, non-profit organizations
have effective, low-cost tools to tell their story, engage their audiences
and generate impressive results.
As an example of how public action resulted in the old era, we distributed
a TV PSA campaign for the National Institute on Aging to promote exercise
among the elderly. The centerpiece of the campaign was John Glenn, America’s
first astronaut to orbit the earth. At the end of the TV spot, the public
was encouraged to write for a free Exercise Guide. TV PSAs were the
primary method for promoting the Guide, and the campaign generated 35,000
phone calls to a dedicated 800 telephone line, along with 300,000 orders
for the Guide.
So far, so good…but what does this mean in terms of behavior
change? No one knows for sure, and that is why we have to look at new
ways to engage people using new media tools.
To show how this works in the new media era, ClickForHelp.com developed
a Facebook application to encourage people to exercise and share their
exercise regimen with their friends. Here are some activities people
can do on the site:
The migration of media to the internet is a confluence of three factors.
People are spending more time online; technology now permits viewing of
high quality online video; and the emergence of social networks. There
are now opportunities to create affordable online messages which can deliver
in-depth content that can be precisely targeted to a specific audience
and the sites can generate better metrics than ever.
- Get more information about exercise and its benefits; create
personal exercise goals
- Send information about exercise to others
- Express preferences for types of exercise or examples of how
it helped them change through exercise
- Provide discussion boards for the audience to discuss their
- Maintain a location for the exercise program and measure activities
of the active audience
Linking Media to Behavior Change
In the new media era, it is important to link PSAs and other media
tactics to measurable behavior. This allows us to measure long term
effects and deeper behavior changes, rather than just collecting data
and gathering information.
To do this however, we need a medium which allows certain behaviors
to be captured and for it to be clear that the behavior has a relationship
to the message source. Behaviors we want to measure include:
- Asking for additional information, (not just once but whether
is done repeatedly and in depth)
- Telling a friend about the information and measuring whether
the friend responded
- Giving input about the message, such as comments or relevant
- Checking for updates or news concerning the message
- Creating personal goals to adopt or spread the message
- Providing visual or written examples of how the message has
- Discussing, adopting or spreading the message
- Continuing these behaviors over time
The set of behaviors above correspond to what is termed “engagement”
in new media parlance. Engagement constitutes a deeper connection between
the audience, the message and the message provider. As shown in this
flow chart, once that process begins, it can be repeated over and over
again, building more synergy and momentum over time.
Using Mobile Technology to Address Causes
Another way new media is being used in our techno-society is the use
of cell phones to support important public causes. CTIA-The Wireless
Industry, has developed radio PSAs that instruct cell phone owners how
to donate money in times of national emergencies such as wildfires and
has a national PSA campaign to alert the public about child abduction
via the Amber Alert system which has a goal of getting a million people
to register. AMBER Alert is a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement
and transportation agencies, broadcasters, and the wireless industry,
to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases.
The goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community
to assist in the search for and the safe recovery of the child.
To summarize, in the old era, conventional media was meant to create
awareness and some type of response. In the new era, social media is
meant to increase involvement and spread the message to others, thus
building a much larger audience, as well as one more deeply committed
to a cause than what was possible a few years ago.
For a more detailed discussion of how social media is changing the
media landscape, go to http://www.psaresearch.com/PSA-BOOK.pdf.
1Bill Goodwill is CEO of Goodwill Communications, a PSA distribution firm; Ken Fischer is CIO of ClickForHelp.com, a technology firm which develops social media programs.