In its first month alone, the iPad had already racked up a million units sold. There's so much online chatter about it, as of this writing a Google search on the name alone generates 107 million search results. The hype and the sales are soaring.
But what does this mean for social media and the way people use the Internet? Are there just a million new Apple toy owners out there or is this the beginning of a broader, more meaningful shift?
In short, this is a shift, or at least the early indicators of a shift.
Here's what appears to be happening: the iPad has introduced a new category of media consumption. Whether it's browsing a Facebook news feed, watching YouTube videos, checking in on TweetDeck, or reading a blog, the iPad is a content consumer's dream device, and that's a shift away from what we were using before.
A New Posture for Using the Internet
If you think about the way people have been engaging social media to this point, it's been either on a computer or a mobile device. You were either leaning forward toward your laptop or desktop computer or hunching over a small mobile device. The iPad introduces another posture: leaning back. This may seem insignificant, but it's not.
Because online engagement is increasingly integrated into everyday life, the iPad provides a more comfortable, engaging opportunity to do all of the things you want to do anyway. Why would I hunch over an iPhone to view a YouTube video when I can lean back and watch it on a device four times the size? Why would I lean forward to read a long blog post (like this one, for instance) when I could kick back and enjoy it with my feet in the air and a beverage in my hand?
If connectivity to the Internet is equal, the iPad provides a superior experience for consuming media and connecting with friends than a laptop or a mobile device. It's the very reason people sheepishly admit, “I gotta get one of these” once they try an iPad for the first time. It's a new experience that they didn't know they wanted and now they want it.
Check out Apple engineers talking about the iPad
Heck, even your cat can use an iPad
5 Ways to Incorporate the iPad Into Your Strategy
If we're seeing the early signs of a new way for people to engage the Internet and consume media, how do we as marketers take advantage of it? Here are five ways to incorporate the iPad into your social media strategy:
#1: Start Fresh With Apps
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Although the iPad plays all iPhone apps, don't assume that just because you developed an iPhone app that iPad users will like it. The iPad is an entirely different experience and you're missing a chance that comes with a bigger touch surface if you don't rethink your app strategy when you move to the iPad. Beyond the sheer surface space difference also consider that the iPhone serves a different function than an iPad and renders some things unnecessary.
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For instance, the Facebook app for the iPhone works perfectly on the iPad but you don't really need it because you can just use the web browser in Facebook for a much richer experience. Developing iPad apps is going to require a good understanding of how people use the iPad. Remember this is “lean back” technology, not “hunch over” technology, so make sure there's an app for that.
#2: Live in the Background
Later this year Apple will release an upgrade to the iPhone and iPad operating system that will allow multitasking. This means certain apps can keep running in the background while the user continues whatever he or she was doing already. What can your business create to run in the background on the iPad so you're retaining users' attention while they do something else? These background services may be sparse early on, so anyone who has something interesting when the new operating system rolls out will have an advantage.
#3: Keep Your Facebook Strategy Focused on Conversation
Facebook is a conversation tool first. If you're not using it for that you're probably experiencing some frustration with Facebook. If mobile device usage is any indication , people who use the iPad will be on Facebook more than the average Internet user. Focus on conversation that has value and you'll win with Facebook both on the iPad and everywhere else.
#4: Don't Be Scared of Text
Contrary to some commentators, blogs are not dead, especially with the iPad. One of the features of reading blogs or websites on the iPad is that you can zoom in on a section of text with a simple pinch of the fingers. That means even the oldest of eyes will be able to read text online because they can blow the words up as large as necessary. Reading on a large screen just became more portable and personalized. Now you just have to put something out there worth reading.
#5: Double Down on Video
Watching video on the iPad is wonderful. Some of the highest praise for the iPad is coming from people using it to watch video. Online video sites like YouTube and Vimeo are already converting videos to play on the iPad. By putting good video on either of those sites, you'll be ensuring that your video will be available to this new video consumer base.
The iPad isn't the only device in this new segment of “lean back” media consumption. Several other companies will roll out similar devices that will only broaden this new category. If your content and conversations aren't worth leaning back to enjoy, you can count on an entirely new segment of people ignoring you altogether. If, however, you can earn attention by providing valuable content and conversation, there's a new audience waiting for you.
What's your experience with the iPad? Do you find you're consuming more media on it than before? If you don't have an iPad or other tablet computer, are you planning to get one? Why or why not? Let us know your thoughts below.
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