Content Shock, Low Attention Spans and the Changing Needs of Digital Marketing

The internet has brought the whole world to our fingertips via computers and mobile devices, letting us access almost anything we want to at any time. While there are obvious advantages to having such easy access to information, entertainment and the endless stream of social media feeds, it has led to attention spans dropping at a steady pace. Naturally, keeping your focus on one thing for any length of time is quite a task when there are so many other interesting things just a click away. What does this all mean for marketers? And how can you overcome this problem to make sure your message gets through and has the desired effect?

Less Focused Than Goldfish

Research in 2015 showed that the average attention span was a mere 8.25 seconds – even less than the 9 seconds a famously attention-starved goldfish can manage. This is a considerable decrease from the 12-second average back in 2000, and the rise in internet access is a likely cause. Other findings show that most people will only read up to 28 percent of the text on a web page, and more commonly only manage around 20 percent. This happens during a visit usually lasting less than a minute, and often less than 20 seconds.

Content Shock

Just a few short years ago, producing good quality content was enough in itself to get noticed and shared, increasing brand visibility and exposure. Of course, it didn’t take long for more and more marketers to realize this, and so content creation increased at a rapid rate. To put it simply, there is now so much information available online that users can’t keep up with it all, and even good quality content can quickly become buried. It was predicted a couple of years ago that the rate of content production would eventually eclipse our ability to consume it, and many people now believe we have reached this point, known as ‘content shock’.

Some evidence cited for this is the fact that organic reach on Facebook has seen a dramatic drop, while spending on promotion has risen. Even big content sites like Buffer and Copyblogger have seen social sharing of their content take a significant tumble. Although this all sounds like the end is nigh for content marketing, this doesn’t have to be the case. As long as you aware of the changing face of internet marketing, you can adapt your strategy to stay as effective as possible.

Marketing to Millennials

Millennials (that’s those born from 1980 to the early 2000s) have grown up in a world where being internet savvy is an important skill, and with that comes a dose of scepticism about media that is obviously trying to sell something. And those short attention spans really kick in when millennials aren’t given an appealing format and a reason to be interested.

Giving a Clear Message – A lack of attention means that anything over-complicated or unnecessarily wordy will be ignored or easily forgotten. This means it’s important to keep social media messages short and to the point. Facebook posts of 80 characters or less have a 27 percent higher rate of engagement than longer ones. Remember, one of the reasons Twitter became so popular is that it forces posts to be quick and snappy. In longer posts, give the reader value from the very beginning. Give them a reason to spend the time it takes to read your content to ensure the greatest chance of your message getting through.

Use Video Effectively – Video is a popular medium that keeps people’s attention much more effectively than the written word. On average, someone will watch 2.7 minutes of a video online. This is a huge improvement over the time they’ll spend reading written content, and gives you time to put across a significantly longer message. It’s not automatic, though, and videos still have to be done right to work.

The first 8 seconds of a video are vital. Use them to grab the attention of viewers, and make them want to watch more. Don’t make your videos too long, though. Even if people are more willing to spend time on a video, you should still get to the point relatively fast before boredom sets in. Humor is hugely popular online, making it extremely effective at engaging people. When it’s done well, humorous content has excellent potential for wide sharing. Video is extremely versatile, letting you combine audio and visuals for a high impact piece of content. If you have existing text-based content that isn’t performing as well as it should be, producing a video version could be the way to give it a boost.

Make Content Engaging and Valuable – Content marketing has to stand out among the sea of information, or it will be wasted. Content shock doesn’t have to mean that content marketing is doomed to fail, and it still has a lot of potential as long as you’re able to make content stand out and provide value to the consumer.

Being unique is one of the most effective ways to get noticed, and possibly the most important. Find something that hasn’t been done, or take a new angle with something that has. It’s all about finding an unfilled niche, no matter how specific. When posting, mix up the format, and don’t limit your social media marketing to one particular kind. Switching between text, images and videos keeps it interesting and helps your posts to stand out, keeping people engaged. Finally, keep an eye on new developments and platforms. The next big thing is always around the corner, and getting onboard early is sure to help success. It’s much easier to stand out in a less crowded arena.

Whether or not you believe in content shock, it’s clear that content marketing strategies need to adapt to stay relevant and effective, particularly with attention spans dropping. Finding new ways to hook users in and keep them interested may present an increasingly difficult challenge, but the rewards can be significant.

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