Since the Microsoft, Corp study of 2015 that told us that humans now have a shorter attention span than goldfish (8 vs. 9 seconds respectively) was released, discussion and controversy about its findings has raged on. While some subscribe to the findings and say it shows how the digital and mobile age is eroding our ability to pay attention and concentrate for prolonged periods of time on an activity, others question the research methodology, definitions and conclusions. What does attention span really mean? Can a goldfish actually pay attention? Was the study peer reviewed?
I personally find the statistic fascinating, and while I agree that the findings might be flawed, I don't believe they are wrong. As marketers we experience this ever shortening attention span regularly - the average person watches less than 15 seconds of a online video, so that Facebook is now testing the effectiveness of 2-second and 6-second videos; people will abandon a site if it doesn't load within 3 seconds or less, and they will only read about 20% of your content. I do think, however, we need to shift our point of view on why this online behavior occurs. Rather than think of it as a shortened attention span or attention deficit, I believe it is that people are attention discriminant - a necessary function of the changing technological and information society we live in.
In an environment that is filled, even littered, with informational content, entertainment, apps, and technology, people need to decide quickly what they want to pay attention to and what not. They need to be frugal with their brain power during the decision-making process, because once they decide what is important they will devote all their mental resources to it.
Of course this cluttered environment makes it increasingly harder to determine how to reach audiences in the right way, with the right information and at the right time. So how do we tackle this complex reality? Answer: by putting people first. Your strategy and campaigns will capture attention and gain impact, if you do the following:
1. Know People: Never assume you know them. Don't rely on your gut feeling or a wishful ideal of your audience. You need to do research. You need to know people's dreams, needs, motivations, behaviors, interests and more. You will never stop learning about your audience. Cutting out this step or stopping after your first insights will cut you off at your knees in the long run.
2. Plan for People: Using the insights you have gained through research, use them. Forget what you know about your business or product, or how you think your audience should behave. Give them what they want, in the way they want it.
3. Measure People: Ensure you are setting up a measurement process that is connected and allows you to make proper attributions. All too often tactics and channels are measured in silos, but you need to be able to track the entire lifecycle and tie actions to outcomes and intent.
You Now Have A Shorter Attention Span Than A Goldfish