Smart advice for smart devices


Enda Conway works with one of the world’s biggest advertising agencies

Mike Finnerty

SINCE the early days of newspapers, radio and television advertising, people have been influenced by media outlets. Our attitudes, outlooks and habits are shaped by the media we consume and our preferences are heavily influenced by what we read, see and hear.
But in more recent times ‘social media’ has become the dominant player in that arena.
The message was drilled home emphatically by ‘The Social Dilemma’ documentary on Netflix recently, as it underlined the major challenges and stark concerns around social media and the amount of time people are spending on their mobile devices.
One man who’s well-qualified to talk about these issues is Enda Conway.
A native of Scardaune (but a dyed-in-the-wool ‘Garrymore GAA man’), the 29 year-old works as a Social Strategy Partner for AMV, which is the London wing of a company called BBDO — one of the world’s biggest advertising agencies.
“I work in the side of the business where the thinking behind the ad happens,” he said when we asked him to describe his job in ‘layman’s terms’. He was also the ‘Head of Social’ for well-known distributed social media publishers, and, in the recent past.
In short, Enda Conway knows how the world of ‘social’ and ‘social media’ works from the perspective of the user, the companies who design the ‘Apps’ we use, and the advertisers who want us to spend as much time as possible browsing and swiping on our devices.
He also has some fascinating insights into the online world most of us now inhabit.
“The likes of the Social Dilemma didn’t irk me at all, to be honest, because none of it was any news to me,” he told The Mayo News last week. “A lot of people in our industry would have felt the same about it.
“People have always been influenced — whether it was newspaper ads in the 1950s or 1960s or a strong person standing on a stage. The difference now is the scale and the amount of touch-points are totally different. And the potential for misinformation now is endless.
“The way algorithms on social media work, and can draw you into things that you like, or the algorithm thinks you should like, is unbelievable. As an industry, I think we need to put our foot on the ball.”

Tips to dip social media use
BUT whatever about the roles of big brands and corporate responsibility, how should Joe and Josephine Bloggs go about trying to rein in their social media usage on a daily basis?
Enda Conway has some suggestions, but admits that he sometimes struggles to practice what he preaches in relation to his own smart-phone habits.
“There has to be personal responsibility. Everyone has to be responsible for their own social media use, and parents have to control the amount of time their kids get on phones.
“Now it’s very easy for me to preach as an expert in something with no kids, nobody to control,” he adds. “It’s not easy for parents who are trying to balance everything, it’s very easy to put the iPad in front of the kids, it’s simple.
“But there are a couple of things you can do, and this will massively drop down your social usage. Number one is: take Facebook off your home screen.
“If you don’t want to go as drastic as not having your phone on you, if you move the app you don’t want to go on to a few pages down the dial, automatically your use of it will drop down by double digits.
“If you don’t see it, you won’t react. . . Because those triggers — the blue light, the colours, the logo. Every time you go on your phone, you’ll notice that.
“Separating yourself from the phone is good too,” he continues. “Turn on your blue light filter before you go to bed. You should try to not use it for 45 minutes before you go to sleep.You will get better sleep. That’s just a fact.
“It’s all about accessibility. If you delete an app off your phone, you’ll forget about it.
“In branding, when I’m trying to build up a brand, I try to make two things occur for my client: mental availability and physical availability,” he explained.
“Mental availability means that it’s ‘top of mind’. Physical availability is how easy can you access it. The same goes for your app. It’s mentally available because of the notifications, it’s physically available because it’s on your home screen.
“If you delete it, you won’t miss it that much. You’ll get over it.”
As for the wider debate around whether we are controlling our devices or our devices are controlling us these days, Enda Conway had this to say:  “Am I worried? Yes. Can we get control of it? We’re at a pivotal moment with it, I think.”