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How To Snag Your Part of the Attention Economy


When marketers talk about the attention economy, they mean more than getting prospects to look at your ad. They're talking about buying, selling, capturing and using consumer attention efficiently. Consumer attention is limited and always comes at a price. Every single day, there are more companies, with more brands and more products to advertise, which means there's more demand for consumer attention than ever.

What's changed is how quickly consumer behavior evolves. For example, the way people use any given social media site is constantly changing, although it's always in service of the site's bottom line. We're all participating in a cleverly orchestrated capitalistic symphony, and views, reacts, shares, and highlights result from this market logic.

Engaged prospects are ones who might take action by buying what's being sold if their interest is held long enough. But these prospects are warier than ever. The public has woken up to the realization that social media was designed to be as addictive as slot machines are.

In the online economy, revenue is a function of continuous consumer attention, which is measured in clicks and time spent. But are people still listening? Marketing experts say that the public has hit a wall — overload.

There's too much content in the attention economy for anyone to even make sense of, much less use to its full advantage. Perhaps the key to thriving in the attention economy involves human-to-human connection aided by technology: marry big data with old-school outreach through authentic follow-up. Pick up the phone and call the person you want to reach. You just might make a profitable human connection.

People still pay attention — under the right conditions — and there are proven ways to capture attention more efficiently.

Here are four principles for how to reclaim value in the attention economy:

  • Buy right: Stop wasting money on "spray and pray" media.
    • You should spend on media that allows you to accurately target, measure and pay appropriately for the attention you receive.
    • The payoff is speed, precision and power.
  • Maximize attention by optimizing the creative factors you can control.
    • One factor that's been found effective is emotion. Advertisers manipulate it in a roller-coaster technique, pulling it up, then back to neutral, up again and back to neutral again over the course of an ad. This makes for compelling storytelling.
    • Use brand pulsing — bring your brand logo on and off throughout the duration of the ad. If the product is brought up too soon or for too long, people are likely to disengage with the ad.
  • Build customer attention over the long run.
    • Start with something quick and simple, and then build on it. Build relationships with your brand incrementally with small asks of attention before big ones so that you can earn customer attention. Otherwise, you'll never be able to keep it.
  • Determine your game plan.
    • Are you spending on the right platforms?
    • Are you leveraging the tools of each in a way that will help you capture and keep consumer attention?

Some marketing mavens are seeing that throughout the pandemic, the attention economy is becoming the passion economy. Their advice is to use the power of live entertainment unfolding in real time; viewers should feel like participants and not passive observers. Think about how Twitch gamers' followers watch them play games. It becomes a communal experience in which viewers share clips and discuss the content across social media, promoting the event. The interactivity of the live event amplifies real-time, peer-to-peer promotion.

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