“Eternal September” is a phrase coined in the days when online communities expanded beyond earlier adopters to include a wider audience. It describes the acclimation period that new users needed to learn the ropes and abide by their communities (often unwritten) rules of conduct. Since the largest influx of users in many communities was in September when college freshmen first gained access, the phrase “Eternal September” described how long-time users felt as their comfortable corners of the internet were overrun with less experienced users.
(Wikipedia does a good job of getting you the details you probably don’t want to get bogged down in, but just in case: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_September)
What does this have to do with online marketing? It’s all about knowing your audience.
As much as we may take the digital tools we’re comfortable with for granted, they’re still, by and large, not completely mature as communications channels. And the fast pace of change surrounding things like social media work against that maturity. So there are many folks you’re trying to connect with for whom it is September. It won’t be September for them forever, but since you’re always seeking to expand your audience, it’s always September for you.
This means you have to make allowances for your audience’s comfort level with the digital tools you choose to communicate with. Let’s take RSS feeds as an example. RSS feeds are great. I couldn’t live without my RSS reader, which lets me stay on top of dozens and dozens of blogs – blogs I’d never visit on a daily basis.
But, only 11% of web users are RSS users. (The latest stats I could come up with were from a Forrester research report from 2008, so that number may have changed to some degree. Just the fact that I can’t find any more recent data leads me to believe it hasn’t changed significantly.)
So unless your audience skews RSS-heavy, you’d better have other channels to reach them. That might be a weekly (monthly, quarterly) email digest of new information, a Twitter stream, regular LinkedIn or Facebook updates, or even (shocker!) a direct mail campaign or hand writing personal notes.
Knowing that it’s always September for someone with whom you’re trying to connect makes it easier for you to make them comfortable. And that makes it easier for them to connect with you and your ideas.