People talk about how our lives are moving from the real world into the online, digital world. They cite statistics about how many hours each day people spend on social media, or how teenagers are no longer going out to meet new people offline. From a business perspective, that seems to be pretty lucrative. If people are packing up and moving into the digital world, it makes digital advertising more and more valuable.
However, by looking at the digital world as if it exists in a separate bubble from the real world, we make a fundamental mistake. You can’t share a picture of an exciting experience on Instagram if it never happens in real life. And having 1000 friends on Facebook isn’t usually an accurate portrayal of your social life, but you still care deeply about impressing them with how you live your life.
The truth is, your online life begins with your real-life experiences, and as such, companies are beginning to realize the motivational power of real-life events. In fact, digital innovation is actually moving back into the real world, in an almost reversal of the ‘move-to-online’ trend that has been often vilified.
Pinterest made big news when it announced ‘Location Pins’ that would allow users to essentially ‘check in’, bringing their real life experiences onto the social media pin-board. The top Instagrammed locations of 2013 are places that people actively seek out, like Disneyland and Times Square. Companies are starting to realize that the digital world could not exist in a metaphorical bubble. We don’t share pictures on Facebook because we just want to have pictures online, we do it because we want people to see the exciting things we’re doing.
That’s where new companies come in, companies that are understanding and using the concept of social sharing as a real world extension. For example, Moment.Me, a company whose goal is to solve the social context problem, has developed an app that brings together data from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more social networks into one place, so users can see the entire experience of a particular event. They will aggregate the content of all their users in order to build a crowdsourced album that gives you all the angles on any given experience. With 3 million users and growing quickly, they have to be doing something that consumers want. It’s a mistake to think that apps like this thrive because people want to experience things online. Rather, they transform the live experience, expanding and enhancing it online.
Products like this resonate with people because they’re offering them a richer online picture of something that moved them in the real world. Google tells you what people are searching for, Moment.Me tells you what people are doing.
Sometimes we neglect to remember that all of this incredibly popular (and potentially profitable) social sharing activity stems from tangible experiences. Concerts, sports games or just a night out with friends, those are the things that actually move us, the things that make our heart beat a little faster. Those are the things we feel an incredibly strong compulsion to share with our friends, family and anyone else who will listen.
By being able to see an event from all angles, as social tools like Moment.Me allow us to do, we can gain a whole new appreciation for that event. If you attended it, you can see what you missed, figure out where to go next, or simply have the ability to share that amazing experience with friends. If you didn’t attend the event, you can better understand your friends when they rave about it over the water cooler the next day. Either way, all of this social sharing starts with real life events and our compulsive love of sharing them with each other.
Our desire to move these experiences into the digital world is not an attempt to escape from them, it’s an expression of a fundamentally human desire to take our most positive experiences and share them with others. Finally, digital technology is getting it.