Here is a remarkable statistic published online by USA Today’s Technology Live website in October 2010. As of that date, there were 6.8 billion people in the world, 1.96 billion Internet users and 517 million Facebook users.
As Byron Acohido, author of the piece noted: “Put another way: about 7 percent of the world’s humans are on Facebook.” Just over a year later, Facebook notes on its statistics page that there are now 800 million active users of the social media network.
How many of those Facebook users carrying smartphones will visit somewhere that relies on a digital sign? One can only imagine the number for a particular venue. But consider this: Facebook’s statistics page says there are 350 million users who actively interact with Facebook via their smartphones. So it’s a pretty safe bet that the closer the demographics of the audience for a digital sign match those of typical mobile Facebook users, the more likely there’s a vast opportunity to be realized.
The likely proximity of a smartphone to a digital sign creates an important opportunity for anyone communicating via a digital sign who possesses a bit of an imagination and a willingness to experiment. Consider a noisy environment, such as a popular bar, dance club or even certain restaurants. Could designating on-screen real estate of a digital sign to a special Facebook page, give a business owner a way to help patrons connect with one another on screen and in so doing cut through the noise, attract the attention of customers and promote goods or services in other zones on the sign?
Leveraging social media in this way could be as simple as giving patrons a virtual bulletin board on which to post vetted observations and pictures or as complex as giving them a way to play bar games, like trivia, with one another. Imagination, budget and creativity would seem to be the only limitations.
The good news for small businesses looking to take advantage of this opportunity is many are already quite familiar and fluent with Facebook. According to the quarterly Merchant Confidence Index released in February 2011 by MerchantCircle, 70 percent of local merchants are using Facebook for marketing -up from 50 percent the preceding year. In fact, MerchantCircle, among largest social network of local business owners in the United States with more than 1.6 million members, found Facebook has passed Google as the most widely used marketing method for local merchants.
In addition to its wide use by local merchants, the rapid growth Facebook saw over the past year saw among merchants is positive. It appears to indicate local merchants have proven themselves to be quite willing to explore the potential of this social network. Thus taking the next step to integrate a Facebook page as digital signage content doesn’t seem to be too far of a stretch for merchants with a knack for the platform.
It’s also important to note that Facebook isn’t the only social media platform that can be leveraged for digital signage content. Twitter, too, easily fits into the same mold as a convenient way to let patrons publicly interact with one another on a digital sign via their smartphones. Like Facebook, Twitter also is familiar to local merchants. The Merchant Confidence Index found about 40 percent currently use the platform, which is up from 32 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009.
As business owners, outside creative agencies and internal graphics departments consider what digital signage content to present to the public, they would do well to remember that adding engaging, attention-grabbing element to their digital sign may be no further away than a Facebook page or Twitter account.