It’s Time to Focus on Attention, Not Impressions
What do you do when you’re watching TV, and it cuts to commercial? Get up to stretch your legs? Pick up your phone and scroll through Instagram?
Chances are, even if you technically “saw” those ads (in that you were physically in the same room as the television), you probably weren’t paying enough attention to absorb the message.
The same goes for online advertising. Just because your banner ad got a few thousand impressions doesn’t mean that they actually paid attention to it.
Our lives are filled with so much information that vies for our attention—emails, push notifications, social media, spam, banner ads, television, articles, and so on and so on. You become numb to it all. You stop paying attention.
Most advertisers don’t realize this or know how to combat it. Instead, they just push their message to as many people as possible and hope that it reaches some (or any!) of them. However, in the war for attention that strategy doesn’t tend to win many battles.
Are You Paying Attention?
Despite the fact that marketers currently have an unprecedented array of tools and platforms they can use to personally reach out to their audience and tailor their messaging, most people focus on shallow interactions. Choosing to limit their social media engagement, for example, to a posting and liking a few comments every now is an approach that only scratches the surface of what these tools can do. As a result, those interactions lack real depth.
We ask for attention by telling people to “Share this video!” or “Follow me for more content!” but most people don’t put in the effort to return that attention. They’re only focusing on the vanity metrics—the view count or the number of likes and shares. They’re begging for more followers, but they’re ignoring the actual quality of their engagement.
Those who recognize the difference between impressions and attention are looking for quality, not quantity. How many of the people who saw your post actually clicking on the link? How many are reaching out to you through direct messaging?
The goal is not to reach as many people as possible and hope that some of them take the bait. It’s to deliver your messaging in a way that resonates as much as possible with each individual person who sees it and to engage in a conversation with those individuals. To do that, you need to pay attention to your audience. You need to reach out and show that you understand their needs.
So, ask yourself this: Are you truly having a conversation with your audience, or are you talking more than you’re listening?
Attention is Currency
The most valuable thing you can possess is time. Unlike wealth, which varies widely from person to person, the number of hours in a day is the same for each and every one of us. We all have the same 24 hours to work, sleep, and relax. No one can buy more time.
Deciding to spend some of that limited time watching your video or reading your blog is an investment, and we need to treat it as such. People don’t generally give out things of value for free, so why would you expect someone to pay attention without offering them anything in return?
That’s why, when we consider the way we market a brand, we need to consider how we can create value for our audience—whether they’re paying for a product or just giving us their attention.
We think about what that audience gets out of interacting with your content or your advertisement and what they receive in exchange for their attention. Once we have that attention, we can convert it into brand awareness and engagement (in the form of likes, shares, and other ways of spreading the brand’s message) or monetary value (by encouraging a sale). However, we need to accept that not everyone who pays attention to your content will necessarily buy a product, and that’s okay. Attention in itself is still a valuable resource.
Attention Over Impressions
To get someone to take an action, you need to first get their attention. You need to make a compelling argument for why that person should spend some of their limited time consuming your content rather than spending it on whatever they were doing previously.
So first, think about the things that grab your attention. What images catch your eye? What makes you slow down or stop what you’re doing for just a moment? What gets you excited?
Once you recognize the tricks that others use to draw your attention, you can start to replicate that appeal for your own audience based on their needs and preferences. Consider what they want—whether it’s knowledge, entertainment, or another type of incentive—and provide it to them. No one is naturally going to care about you or your brand. You need to give them a reason to care—one that’s more compelling than the other things currently competing for their attention.
Remember, it’s not enough that someone just sees your content. As we’ve discussed, impressions don’t necessarily translate to increased brand awareness or conversions. The only way to achieve those objectives is to capture attention by offering something of value in return.
You don’t just “get” someone’s attention. You work for it.
You earn it.