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Paul Moran

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Goldfish Have Longer Attention Spans Than We Do

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Think about the last time you scrolled through your Facebook newsfeed, Twitter account or Instagram feed. How long did you spend on each post? My guess is probably less than a second. Most people don’t spend a lot of time analyzing and reading every post that infiltrates their newsfeed from their networks. A typical user will scroll through and, when something catches their attention, perhaps an image, a video, a close friend’s status update, or some wildly popular post gathering a bunch of likes and comments… they stop and pay attention. Our lives have become digitally inundated with information.

 

Earlier this year, Microsoft published a 54-page report that released the results of an extensive research study conducted on 2,000 people, starting in the year 2000. 15 years ago, these participants had an average attention span of twelve seconds. By the end of the study, that span had dropped to eight seconds… just one second below the attention span of a goldfish, according to Microsoft. The researchers went on to state that participants “with more digital lifestyles (those who consume more media, are multi-screeners, social media enthusiasts, or earlier adopters of technology) struggle to focus in environments where prolonged attention is needed.”

 

Does this mean that as a society, things have become less important? No. What it means is that we have increasingly more noise in our lives coming at us from more venues. It means we are having to make conscious decisions on where to place our attention and on what content.  

 

As digital marketers fight for consumers’ attention, knowing that they may have just one shot at gaining it, how do they increase the odds in their favor? When people go to a social media platform, they typically do so to see what’s going on in their networks. They interact with the people they feel the most connected to, along with the content that has been shared that interests them. While everyone has different interests - some people like news, some like to talk politics, some want funny cat pictures and yes, some want to play Candy Crush - the one constant among everyone on social media is that they interact with their close friends and family from afar.

 

So, if we only have a brief moment to capture a customer’s attention, deliver our brand message or establish a recommendation - whether that’s direct (“Hey, these guys are great! They totally rock as a car dealership!”) Or indirect (“Hey check out my new car!”) - The best way to gain that exposure is by branded content. Yes, in a perfect world you’d want to be able to create the content, brand the image then deliver it to the customer for them to share. That will get the best results. But, if you are unable to accomplish that, why not offer to take a picture of the customer in front of their new vehicle where you control the background and imagery  -- such as making sure the dealership’s branded plates are showing. Or the store is in the background. Most customers will let you do this. If you don’t do it, they will take a picture of their new vehicle themselves and share it. But it will probably be in their driveway and may or may not have your branding. By providing them with a good quality picture, the customer is likely to feel less of a need to take their own picture later -- because they’ll already have a picture - and it’s that much more likely to be shared with their network.

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