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The GPS Generation: Why You Need To Give People Directions If You Want Them To Find You Online

By January 4, 2012June 26th, 2015Marketing Insights & Strategy
The GPS Generation: Why You Need To Give People Directions If You Want Them To Find You Online

Remember back in the day, maybe when you were a teenager (if you’re as old as I am) when you needed directions and you’d ask someone who would spout, from memory, a route following two dozen turns, hills, traffic lights and intersections? You’d frantically scribble everything onto the back of an envelope and look out for the blue house with the long driveway just before the left turn. Somehow you made it to your destination, usually with a few wrong turns and wondering whether the house on the corner counted as the first on the block even if it was facing in the other direction (if you did this without a cell phone, you get extra points).

Then came GPS and now electronic voices from our dashboards tell us where and when to turn. It’s been ten years since I could tell you how to get to even the simplest location and I’ve stopped memorizing street names beyond the one I live on (need that to cash the checks).

I bet I’m not alone. Call it a luxury or a symptom of technology, but the easier things get for us, the less we have to think about them. This is hardly a debate about whether that’s good or bad – it’s simply a fact. When spell check turned up on my computer, I stopped worrying whether i came before e. It auto-corrected anyway. When Outlook calendar turned up I stopped worrying about when the next meeting was. I simply waited for the alert to pop up and tell me. When GPS turned up, I stopped caring what the street two blocks over was called. Electronic Car Lady got me there anyway.

There’s A Point To This And Yes, It Does Relate To Your Online Marketing

Just the other day I was flipping through a local publication that comes free to residential households in my town. It’s got a color story or two interspersed by advertising for local businesses and events. As I flipped, I noticed that many of the businesses had Facebook icons in their ads. The curious thing, the thing that made me go back and look at every single advertisement in that book, was that many of them lacked any actual Facebook address. And so I counted. Out of 40 ads with a Facebook icon, exactly 5 listed their actual Facebook address beside it. That’s 12%! Only 12% of businesses in my local area thought to let people know where to find them online.

As the GPS Generation we’re used to technology picking up the slack, whether it’s correcting our spelling or our wrong turns. Our desktop icons are called “shortcuts” for a reason. We want one-click, fast-loading, easy-access browsing. So why then, do marketers make it so darn hard to for us to find them online?

In a digital age, this is akin to telling customers to visit your store and then leaving out the street address, with the presumption that they’ll look you up in the phone book! Now, I can Google a company as quickly as you can. But who the heck wants to? I’m busy! I use GPS! What on earth makes an otherwise smart business person think that either

A) Their business is so well known that it’s clearly obvious what their Facebook address is, or

B) I care enough to put down the ad, turn on my computer, Google their company, find a probable Facebook page, visit it AND Like it?

This is assuming way too much. First, that someone will take the initiative to search for your company and second, that your Facebook page will spring up at the top of that search. Does this sound like a reasonable expectation? If you’d seen a Facebook icon for a business you otherwise weren’t familiar with, would you go through this effort just to click a blue Like button? There’d better be some serious incentive involved otherwise I contend that ad real estate has been utterly wasted.

Are You Part Of The 12%?

Do you know what that little blue “F” on your ad or the top of your website or even on the back of your business card is? If it were red, it’d be a big, fat Fail! But in blue it’s an advertisement for Facebook – not your business. I’m sure Mark Zuckerberg thanks everyone who plasters that F on every document that comes off the printer but it won’t do your business a bit of good unless you direct people there.

Take this to heart and scrutinize your marketing materials right now. From your business cards to your letterhead, website, brochures, and advertisements. If you’re not giving people explicit directions on where and how to find your business – whether it’s your street address or your web address – spend some time rethinking your materials.

And next time you plunk the F on an ad, please print your Facebook address next to it.  The same goes for your Twitter address. If you want people to find you, you must tell them how.

P.S. In the interest of marketing research, I did, in fact, look for a number of companies who did not print their Facebook address. First I tried a realistic address, such as Sometimes a hit, more often a miss. Failing that I Googled the company. Sadly, I was still not able to find them all this way. Make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Hi Carol.
    You make a very clear point of rethinking marketing materials. To a certain extent, I think that what you denounce here is the product of our excess of astonishment with social media. May I explain. It seems as though we have not gotten over the wonders of Facebook and Twitter, and thus we believe it enough to publish as little as possible. We overvalue simplicity and believe that everyone knows what we think just by hinting it, as it often happens on Facebook. It becomes a problem, for as you say it is FB and Twitter who end up getting the publicity and enjoying its fruits.


  • Well said. Marketing has to be direct and clear with a good call-to-action. A social icon is not enough. Thanks for your input!