Are you bridging the “digital divide” in your communications?

Low-income and rural audiences are underserved by most digital communications. Content strategists need to respond.

Revmade regularly scours the internet for new studies that offer important insights for marketers. Then we write them up for you in as few words as possible. (Want to get them emailed to you? Sign up here.)

Mobile-first. Responsive. Lightweight. All principles of good web design and creation that have become mainstream as web browsing increasingly occurs on smartphones instead of desktop computers. But as Pew Research said in two recently published reports, this isn’t a uniform transition.

Case in point (in their words): 

  • “Roughly a quarter of adults with household incomes below $30,000 a year (24%) say they don’t own a smartphone. About four in 10 adults with lower incomes do not have home broadband services (43%) or a desktop or laptop computer (41%). And a majority of Americans with lower incomes are not tablet owners. By comparison, each of these technologies is nearly ubiquitous among adults in households earning $100,000 or more a year.” (Digital divide persists even as Americans with lower incomes make gains in tech adoption)
  • “Rural Americans have made large gains in adopting digital technology over the past decade and have narrowed some digital gaps. However, rural adults remain less likely than suburban adults to have home broadband and less likely than urban adults to own a smartphone, tablet computer, or traditional computer.” (Some digital divides persist between rural, urban and suburban America)

Case in point (in our words): Income and where you live are just two of many socioeconomic factors that matter quite a bit when it comes to how audiences can or will use digital media and services — and interact with your organization online.

Why should I care? If your organization is trying to reach tech professionals in Silicon Valley, you can be fairly confident that they have the devices to engage with your communications efforts. An organization trying to reach low-income rural audiences can’t make that same assumption. If your content isn’t matched to how your audience uses technology and the internet, how can you expect to reach and engage them?

What do I do now? Here are the three key questions you need to be asking regarding your marketing and communications efforts: 

  • How much do you really know about your audience? We’re not talking about what is in your five-year-old personas. What’s in your audience database? What do you already “know” about your audience that you haven’t yet implemented in your marketing campaigns to reach them? And where are the gaps that you can fill in the future?
  • Are you trying to reach segments that are at risk of being underserved? Do you know how much of your audience owns a smartphone vs. a cell phone? How many people get annoyed when they fail to load your website — again — thanks to your resource-intensive website? If you don’t have good answers, it’s time to get to know your audience — fast — through research, surveys, and interviews.
  • Where are your current communications falling short? You’ll want to undertake a candid assessment of your marketing efforts in the context of the socioeconomic factors mentioned above. Are segments of your target audience less likely to engage with the data-heavy multimedia experience your team just launched last month? You’ll want to consider a lightweight alternative to make sure they see your message.

TL;DR: Make sure your digital communications efforts are able to reach all segments of your target audience by studying not just where they spend time online, but how they get there in the first place.

Trying to reach new or underserved audiences? Need to figure out if your current marketing is fit to meet the needs of those audiences? Need a better approach to studying how your audience spends their time and attention? Reach out to us for more info.


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