Learning from Real Traffic to drive Web Traffic


According to the book “Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)” by Tom Vanderbilt, “Caution: Children Playing” signs have not been shown to reduce speeding or accidents. The evidence is so compelling that most traffic departments don’t plant the signs voluntarily.Yet these signs are nearly as ubiquitous as, well, children playing. Most of them are posted by frustrated neighbourhood committees who lobby city governments to reduce speeding on their streets. Sadly, there’s the rare occasion when a futile “Children Playing” sign marks the spot where a child was killed by a motor vehicle.

I wonder if a “Child Killed Ahead” might be more persuasive in slowing traffic down.

There are also signs that warn of deer, moose, camels, elephants, etc, crossing ahead. Again, studies show that these signs, no matter where you are in the world, do not alter driver behaviour.

A Colorado trial featured a special animated deer sign (no it wasn’t Bambi). Researchers presumed that the animated sign would draw more attention and heighten driver awareness. For a few weeks, it was turned away from the road, then turned back. There were actually more deer killed when the sign was activated than when it was not, even though fewer deer had crossed. The researchers then went so far as to place a deer carcass next to the animated sign – only then did the drivers finally slow
— Tom Vanderbilt - Traffic

How does this relate to media? “Children Playing” and “Deer Crossing” signs may warn of what might happen, but people are more likely to react to what is happening.

Talking about the “conversation” on your corporate blog or via your twitter account, etc, may be good for identifying the possibility of connections, but to earn attention you actually have to play in this space and (forgive the metaphor) place your carcass where people can see it.  You need more than a sign post that talks about what you can do in social media. You need to demonstrate that you are capable and competent in the subject matter you represent. In order to earn attention, you have to read more posts than you write and leave more comments on other blogs than you receive on your own. 

There are a growing number of abandoned corporate blogs, fan pages, Twitter profiles etc. on the web today.  Perhaps they thought that simply launching a blog was enough to put towards their share of the conversation when in fact, all they really contributed was another sign for people to ignore.