As social marketers, we’re constantly told that “people don’t read any more,” “attention spans are getting shorter and shorter,” and “people want more choice.” This may be true – to a point, but then how can we explain the success of platforms like Snapchat, which limits user options? Why are so many people binge-watching marathons on Netflix and Hulu? Then there’s my personal favorite: the 2.7 million views of “Yule Log” – an ad in which Nick Offerman of Parks and Rec fame silently drinks whisky for 45 mins. No I’m not kidding.
I recently went to an event at Google that was co-hosted by Situation, a digital marketing agency with roots in the entertainment industry that specializes in turning consumers into fans. The topic of discussion: the Attention Paradox and the challenges and opportunity it brings to marketers.
1. Creating video content? Consider the platform
We consume huge amounts of micro video content (think Snapchat and Vine) but we also spend hours binge-watching the latest episodes of Orange is the New Black. On Facebook and YouTube even organic views are generated differently; on YouTube, the user has to actively search or seek out content, whereas on Facebook, you most likely stumble across it on your feed. Facebook knows this, that’s why videos get pushed to the top of your feed, start playing automatically and often have captions to maximize accessibility.
2. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel
How do you make something old, new? Well the short answer is that you don’t have to. The old is nostalgic and grabs consumers’ attention because they feel connected to it. To change it up, reimagine your brand or mascot into something more relevant for today’s audience or even spin it as retro! What better example than our very own Smokey Bear? He doesn’t look a day over 21.
3. Limited choice can actually focus attention
Having too many options can sometimes be a problem. How many of us have sat in front of Netflix scrolling through options before settling on Amy Schumer’s Women Who Kill? For the fourth time. Twitter is a perfect example here; 140 characters are restrictive, but this limitation challenges users to be concise and creative in their tweets. Mastering Twitter is an art form. In the same way Snapchat limits text, replays, video length and even brand participation, yet it’s one of the hottest apps around. Limiting choice can actually help to focus attention.
4. Virtual reality (VR) is the future
To quote Situation Video Director and presenter Christopher Hawthorne:
“The promise of VR means that we experience everything more acutely and beautifully than ever before.”
VR is having a huge impact on how we create and distribute content, and it’s amazing to think how far we’ve come in such a short time. VR creates an immersive experience that helps us connect to stories and develop a deep emotional connection to the content. For a powerful example of VR used to showcase nonprofit impact, check out “Clouds over Sidra” which follows a 12 year old girl in the Za’atari camp in Jordan – currently home to 84,000 refugees from the Syrian civil war.