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Seven is the magic number (for apps, mobile, and drama)

Public relations in the 21st Century is all about storytelling. And, as anyone with a background in art history, literature, and film will know, there is a limited number of tales available to use as inspiration.
According to innumerable theorists, there are only seven original stories. From those, every other yarn is spun, meaning we can loosely file plots under headings like ‘Odyssey’, ‘Tragedy’, or ‘Rebirth’. The specific titles vary from pundit to pundit, book to book, but nevertheless you probably get the point. Interestingly enough, according to the Harvard Business Review earlier this year, there are exactly seven popular uses for mobile media when it comes to members of the U.S. public. These were described as:
‘Self Expression’ (participation in hobby or niche interest- 1% of all interactions via mobile handset, excluding email, SMS, and voice calls)
‘Discovery’ (news and information- 4%)
‘Preparation’ (planning activities- 7%)
‘Accomplishing’ (managing finances, health and productivity- 11%)
‘Shopping’ (12%)
‘Socialising’ (interaction with others- 19%)
‘Me Time’ (relaxation and entertainment- 43%)
The information was garnered from the Seven Shades of Mobile study, conducted by InsightsNow for AOL and BBDO in 2012. The first stage of the research saw 24 users complete an individual seven-day diary, and partake in lengthy interviews. In the second phase, 1,051 U.S. users ages 13 to 54 were surveyed, with data from 3,010 mobile interactions collected. The mobile activities of two-thirds of those users were also tracked for 30 days.
Closer to home, and another story regarding the number seven also caught our eye. This weekend, The Observer ran an article entitled ‘Social media: the next generation‘, which contained plenty of speculation concerning whether or not Facebook needs to be concerned about competitors.
The paper’s Digital Media Correspondent, Jemima Kiss, references a ‘lack of empathy for the true human condition’, and the fickle nature of web browsing as potential issues with the biggest network on the planet. Basically, it is impossible to predict people’s behaviour accurately every time, so no amount of algorithm expertise can give a complete view as to how the public will react and adapt to news events, not to mention new social networking options. Just look at MySpace.
Obviously nobody knows whether Facebook will follow suit. At the moment it certainly doesn’t look like it will happen any time soon, if ever, despite big problems in terms of both privacy and decency on the network- two more arguments in the article referenced above. Offensive content isn’t removed quickly enough, and nobody outside the powers that be truly understands how much information is being stored about them.
With every new app there’s an increased challenge for room on the home pages of mobile users everywhere, because most people only really use seven. These change as fashions and fads do, albeit some remain constantly popular (such as Facebook). But the point is all that’s needed to dislodge the current top dog is a shift in taste leading to a change in demand.
The blog ‘We’re not ‘appy. Not ‘appy at all‘ shows Britain’s Government recognises the investment required to develop an app is too great for the actual demand in most instances. People won’t use them, even though they use apps every day, because they only use a small number of apps compared with all they can buy from the digital Store or Market.
For business, PR and marketing, this doesn’t mean ignoring new social networks and other mobile downloads. Take a look at our recent newsletter story on niche social networks for proof that specialist digital offerings are on the rise. However, spending time getting to know which applications are the most popular overall for the various platforms currently available in the UK (i.e. Android, iOS) is a good idea if you’re considering using mobile to engage the public. From there, consider which would suit your brand, and then begin to piece together the grand plan.
Image credit: Leo Reynolds

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