Pulse of the Profession

Friday Five: The Information Overload Age

For all the benefits of the information technology and communications revolution, there exists a well-known dark side: information overload and its close associate, disruptive technologies. The amount of online content out there is simply too much to handle, and it’s constantly growing. Some people are so afraid of missing something that they feel compelled to stay connected 24/7 and sometimes we can’t tell when to shutdown. The good news is there’s plenty of entrepreneurial energy put toward developing tools that can help eradicate the problem.

In this week’s PRSA “Friday Five” post — an analysis of the week’s biggest public relations and business news and commentary — we explore the concept of information overload and disruptive technologies. We take a closer look at the effect of information overload on consumers’ choices and email marketing. We also look at social media as a possible root cause of information overload, and learn more about how people are spending their time online. Finally, we look at how one company’s successful business model stems from the concept of disruptive technologies.

How Internet Users Worldwide Spend Time Online (PR Daily)

Thirty percent of the world’s population spends time online. That may not seem like a large percentage, but it represents 2,095,006,005 people who spend a cumulative 35 billion hours online each month, which is equivalent to 3,995,444 years. Here are a few more interesting facts about the world’s online habits:

  • People search more than 1 billion queries on Google per day.
  • Location-based services are the fastest growing Internet trend.
  • The United Kingdom has the highest online population. The United States ranks fifth.

To learn more, check out PR Daily’s featured infographic from Go-Gulf.com.

The Fallacy of Information Overload (@Brian Solis)

Brian Solis is known for his work in studying how social media and disruptive technology impact business and culture. With the glut of information and the overwhelming sense of responsibility to duly engage, we sometimes succumb to fatigue. In his blog this week Solis says, “Information overload is a symptom of over consumption and the inability to refine online experiences based on interest and importance.” Earlier this year, Solis hosted a poll across Twitter, Facebook and Google+ where he asked Internet users, “Do you suffer from information overload because of social media?” His results indicate that the majority of people are experiencing some degree of information overload, though not everyone is overwhelmed by it. For many, it’s a matter of focusing on what’s important and ignoring the constant spam that floods our social media experience and can lead to information overload.

Making Choices in the Age of Information Overload (The New York Times Magazine)

Economists have a name for the cues that companies employ to convey their hidden strength: signaling. Signaling is often associated with consumer goods. In many ways, it was useful. How does anyone really know that they’ve picked the right baby formula, soda or car? They don’t, and manufacturers know that. That’s why our economy is filled with highly promoted branding campaigns that, however superficial or annoying, can be enormously helpful guides. Despite the fact that the Internet gives people the option to do research on their own, as opposed to listening to the abundance of signals being tossed out there, the Internet among other things, is a massive, chaotic marketplace. Too much information, it turns out, is a lot like no information. According to classical theories, signaling thrives when consumers don’t have access to reliable information. However, signaling actually works far better in an information-rich society than in a poor one.

Four Secrets to More Effective Email Marketing (Forbes)

In this era of smart phones, status updates, texting, Tweeting and everything in between, there are more messages coming at us than ever before, making it tough to get a grip on what’s important and what’s just noise. Email in particular has come under fire for straddling the line between useful work/life tool and spam magnet, and marketing communications have certainly received some flak. Even retailers are wearing out their welcome in customers’ email inboxes, forcing brands to rethink their strategies. Forbes contributor San Cece, CEO of StrongMail, offers several ways that companies can continue to leverage email, despite the competition for attention.

Innovation: 3M’s Lessons to Be Learned (The Huffington Post)

While there have been a number of articles in the media discussing information overload and disruptive technologies 3M has managed to take these concepts and use them as fundamentals for building a successful business model. 3M is a global innovation company that has remained under the radar for its long-term innovation plans and successes. The root of 3M’s success is its business model; to foster organic growth by inventing entirely new, market-changing products. These disruptive technologies have not only led to new products but also to the creation of new industries. As part of the company’s holistic innovation strategy, 3M focuses on developing disruptive innovations outside the current existing portfolio. Here is an example of a company that has made use out of something associated within a negative context, information overload and disruptive technologies, and used these concepts to pioneer new ways of innovating.

Nicole Castro is the public relations associate at the Public Relations Society of America.

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