Marshall McLuhan: The Original Social Media Guru


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‘Today, after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned.’?

– Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964.

In 1964, Marshall McLuhan became the first person to popularize the concept of a global village; an interconnected world made possible by rapid advances in technology. His insights were revolutionary at the time, and laid the foundation for the way we think about media, technology, and mass communication in today’s digital age. Interestingly enough, while we have the technological means to be global, I would argue that today’s millennial consumers use these technologies more to focus on themselves as well as the local realm ‘ and marketers and advertisers are taking notice. While today’s consumers are invested in global and philanthropic causes and do stay on top of world news, millennials are more generation ‘Me’? and ‘what’s going on around me within my circle’? than any other generation in history.

In certain respects, Marshall McLuhan was the original social media guru; he understood the innate human need to connect with one another and share. Today, hundreds of millions of people live a large part of their lives online, myself included. However this trend has not turned entire generations into anti-social zombies. Instead, social media and mobile communications are fueling mass-connectivity at the local level, as consumers (especially millennials) use these technologies to connect with family and friends, and learn about local happenings and events in their area. A significant portion of marketing campaigns today include a social media component to drive engagement, increase participation and create a more memorable all-around experience — again, ‘global village’? enabling technologies for local activation.

Consider Groupon Inc., a Chicago-based Internet-coupon service. The company was founded in 2008 and in merely two years, has accumulated more than 35 million users in >300 markets worldwide. The site offers consumers the opportunity to purchase unique products and/or services in their local area at a discount rate. The company has done extremely well because: A) consumers enjoy partaking in social activities such as social-commerce, purchasing products and services as a group B) Groupon’s local offerings are relevant and actionable.

Looking ahead to the New Year, I look forward to the launch of new technologies, websites, and applications and the ways in which marketers/advertisers will harness these mass-communication technologies to promote socializing within one’s extended network in the local sphere.

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