today's marketers need to target friends of friends

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Looking back at 2018, there’s one competitor we underestimated this year.

It’s slowly draining the attention of every human on the planet.

It plays into almost all human needs — as they are defined by the Maslow Hierarchy.

It’s the rectangular status-seeking device in your hands. That’s right. It’s your smartphone.

Maslow’s needs start with the basics. Starting at the bottom of the pyramid, we all need food and water. Then safety. Next up is belonging, then esteem, then self-actualization.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs

The hierarchy was first introduced in a research paper by the psychologist Abraham Maslow in 1943. He had no idea that 64 years later, the invention of the smartphone would supercharge the famous pyramid.

Here’s why: We now check our phones the equivalent of one day a week, and 20 percent of adults spend 40 hours a week on it. The stats suggest we check our phones 80 to 150 times per day, on average.

That’s not new news after a decade of the smartphone’s existence, but one of today’s biggest marketing mistakes is underestimating what people are doing with those phone checks.

With Maslow’s guidance, it’s clear we are reinforcing our need to belong, checking our status, and ultimately building our esteem toward self-actualization.

So, what can brand marketers do about it?

Marketers Marketing to Marketers

This amplified need to belong and check status has turned into hundreds of millions of personal advertising campaigns, all competing against brands for attention.

It is much more likely for people to adopt a brand based on friends and family sharing content than TV, Facebook and YouTube advertising combined.

They’re not just looking at friends and family content all day. They’re making it. Millennials might spend two hours a day creating and posting. Plus, there’s important time spent checking the metrics and seeing who liked their posts.

The sheer weight of personal messages from friends and family minimizes the “cut through” ability of advertiser-paid messaging. Literally, everyone is building status in real time, 24/7, with instant gratification of shared photos and videos traveling at lightning-fast smartphone processing speed.

If you multiply personal posts by the total number of friends on everyone’s contact list, you have a lot of ground to cover to join the conversation. The world of organic reach is a nonfactor for brands, leaving engagement as the affordable metric of choice.

Going forward, your job as a marketer is not just to engage one audience group. You also need to engage friends of friends.

That means, stop focusing on just your target market. It’s your target’s target you need to reach.

So, what to do differently in 2019?

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