In my last post I talked about the importance of understanding the audience.
So now let’s take a closer look at what is, exactly, the “online audience.” Do they think and act differently than other audiences, like those at a political rally, an academic lecture, or in front of a TV?
Do people think and act differently online than they do in so-called “real life?” Are online audiences truly different than other audiences?
Yes, and the reasons why are imperative to the success of selling to them.
A Realm of Dioramas
For one, the Web is inherently anonymous. This is obvious, people can “walk around” the Web under the guise of an alias, a username, rather than their actual legally-recorded names. But the online world is hidden to us in another, deeper way.
We’re not interacting with other people. We, our physical beings, only interact with a computer screen.
We type and click on various visual cues, and usually those actions are reflected in changes elsewhere on that screen. Or in other words, we type out letters onto our Facebook status update, hit Post, and the update appears in the newsfeed.
Then, we see comments appear under our status update. We post comments in reply, and more appear. We are “interacting” with the other postees, but in truth we are interacting with only a screen whose contents continue to modify. I am not really talking to anyone. So what am I actually doing?
Well in essence I’m just modifying a box full of stuff, a diorama. When that diorama is further changed not by my own doing, I acknowledge that as someone else’s reaction to my actions.
What I am not doing is something like moving a chess piece, watching my opponent across the table think, grunt in thought, and then finally move their piece. There is no physical feedback or interaction.
No one is there to judge your immediate bodily actions. In short, we in actuality have no audience watching us. Just a computer screen. And that’s an inanimate object; it’s not going to judge what we do in front of it.
So people can either hide behind a false front and act as differently as they want, or in a strange twist they can act more honestly. The veil of the Web can give equal incentive for people to either don a facade or to drop one.
And the lesson is: The Web is a land with little rules because of the lack of immediate consequences. People will have less obstacles towards their decisions and expressions, for good or ill.
In A Galaxy Far Away…
The Web has made us accustomed to an “instantaneous world.” We expect replies to be faster, more prompt, and more precise to our exact queries. Yet for all this increased pacing, the Web is incredibly distant.
Instead of going outside to talk to my neighbor, I could just call him. I wouldn’t see his face, but at least I’d hear his voice. Now I can just chat with him online, and neither see or hear him. I just interact with his words on a screen (yes we have video-chat but that is still greatly under-utilized by comparison to those who simply text-chat).
The online world is one where me, my physical body, is not present. I can say whatever I want, express whatever opinion, and choose whatever decision I want without fear of immediate physical consequences. I can be as offensive as I want without fear of getting punched, or I can be as direct as I want without having to worry about blushing.
Remember, even television — often first accused of raising us to be “impersonal” — is still communal. You watch TV with family and friends, and then talk about it around the water cooler.
But the online world? You do that in your own space, and you talk about it online, not so much outside of that medium. People hole up in territories of like interest, which are the social networks, where habits and mindsets are only reinforced, not broadened.
The distance between physical human bodies means I don’t have to bother reacting to body language and emotional cues. It’s a world of dioramas, after all.
A salesman cannot guilt me into buying his car because I’m not beside him, I’m facing my computer. I can remain as obstinate as I want without fear of social ridicule at any level.
People would look at you strangely if you bought a dozen candy bars in a store, but with no one there to witness you online you can up the quantity box as high as you want.
Because I’m not physically facing anyone, any “connections” I have with other people on the Web are as distant as if we were on separate continents. And that is a strength of the Web, but it also means that standard pitching techniques designed to appeal to us bodily, socially, and culturally no longer have as much potency.
There is far less fear of offending someone, shaming oneself, disappointing others, and upsetting anyone else because of this distance and anonymity.
And the lesson is: On the Web we can act out as much as we want since no one is around to do anything about it. Appeal to, and beware of, that freedom.
The Web is a land of ideas and concepts… and nothing else. When you go to a store you can physically pick up a piece of clothing, feel its stretchiness, its texture, even its smell.
You can try it on then and there, and if any of these facets don’t meet your satisfaction you can choose not to get the item.
Not so online. There are only images of that which you plan to buy. Photos and videos can be modified to present whatever impression they need to (camera techniques, color correction, Photoshopping in general), but that is an ingrained truth of anything viewed on the Web: it’s just an impression, and it is a totally subjective one. Every presentation on the Web is a pitch, it is not the actual analysis of the item in the user’s own hands. There is no thing on the Web, only presentations. Always remember this distinction.
And that fact can make someone less eager to buy, or in some cases more eager.
And the lesson is: Everything online is just an impression, and can’t be assessed on its whole merits. Remember that disadvantage, and use it as an advantage whenever necessary.
A World Made For You
Despite the anonymity and distance, the Web is also extremely personal. Every thing on the Web is made just for you, filtered just for you, and appears just for you. On your screen. No two windows into the online world are completely alike.
Dynamic pages are crafted per user request; that means that a specific web page doesn’t even exist until it appears on a person’s screen. Filtered search results form according to a person’s search history, proximity, and social interests.
Access is the Web is the greatest tunnel vision of all. We see only the Web we specifically seek out to look for, nothing else. There is no real “peripheral” vision in a web browser.
The Internet has no “personal space.” All signals from all users are electronic signals overlapping and grouped upon one another. In a sense, nowhere else are we closer together, nowhere else are we “one being, one mind” even if but for an instant of time. Ultimately though, our personal display into this vast universe is literally created just for us.
Everything we see, even “social interaction” on a social network, is made just for our perusal. Again, it’s all dioramas, and each ever-changing version of that diorama is made exclusively for the individual user and no other. In no other medium has anything ever been so personalized.
And the lesson is: The Web is incredibly isolationist, both in principle and in practice. The Web is crafted each and every single time it’s accessed. So there is no better avenue to make a unique user experience.
Putting It All Together
So, how are people on the Web an entirely different kind of audience than people not on the Web?
Anonymous, and can take whatever guise they want, and act with impunity. They’re more free to be harsh or to be kind, so take that into consideration when pitching to them and be ready to anticipate that in their reviews.
Distant, free from being burdened with and at the same time denied the helpful hints of bodily cues and physical emotional traits. People can only use their logic, rational, or purely mental emotions. There is less chance of embarrassment, but more chance of anger. There is less empathy, but more openings for glee. Be aware of that when appealing to someone. Read more on https://wise-xy.com/buy-tiktok-followers/
Impressionable, so when trying to pitch something physical only focus on its impressionable qualities, not its tangible ones. You can’t sell clothing or food on its texture, flavor, and aroma, so don’t bother making those areas the priority in your pitch. Focus on what can be communicated through the screen: visuals, sounds, and motions.
Personal, and the Web always reaffirms this self-centered focus. Everything on the Web is made for you, at that moment in time, so always find a way to appeal to the user Now and specifically to Them. If you don’t, you’ll be the one thing that doesn’t compared to everything else that does. The average person won’t bother if it’s not for them.
Like with all online marketing, the Web offers and demands practices that are familiar to us and yet not. It takes the same tactics and strategies we’ve used before, but they need to be used in new ways and with new reasonings.
How else do you think online audiences are unique, or how are they not?