Why We Share: The Attention Economy

I realize that the moniker attention economy has been around for quite some time, but I believe it to be a concept that is important to unpack in this media saturated landscape we find ourselves in. It is also central to the importance of understanding why we share content.

Media and user-generated content are playing a more prominent role in our lives. As attention is finite, we are working faster and faster to consume media and finding new ways to ignore the rest. As interest in media increases, the attention advertising receives decreases. How to do brands gain attention?

More marketing? Smarter marketing?

Every minutes 1.3 million updates are shared on Facebook. On Youtube, over 100 hours are uploaded every minute. Approximately 58 million pictures are uploaded to Instagram each day. Brands have responded by producing more content. Content is now seen as the driving force in succeeding on social media. Facebook’s mobile ad revenue soared to $2.5 billion.

As the social web matured, personal expression has become our currency. We share because self-expression is our entertainment. What we produce are short bursts of newsworthy expressions, or the curating of others’. As the infinite scroll demands more and more of our attention, we consequently need to consume shorter content (TLDR!).

What to do in this constantly shifting and expanding environment?

Value is now a commodity. Brands can provide value through emotional content (we rationalize after), useful information (allowing others to be experts) or utility (make life better).

Valuable content, can be shareable content. It should help fuel people’s expressions. The key is finding a way for brands to enter the mix and fuel these expressions and help them to have impact.

The output of this, of course, is data. The sharing of content provides insight into the motivations behind the actions of those willing to share a brand’s content. To observe, is to analyze and decode the context in which content is shared – providing how it is relevant. Similarly, brands may uncover advocates. The more participatory, connected, device-jumping and content-generating we become, the more important these advocates become. As self-expression fuels social, people now have audiences. Audiences now have audiences. Those that have an audience have influence. Through active observing, and engaging, brands can seek out people with real influence.

We share because we want to believe others’ are listening. We use brand-related content when it amplifies, adds utility, or provides an additional layer meaning to our expressions. People are the medium. People are attentive to content that provides these opportunities.




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