You’re On Your Own Goldfish, Human Attention Span Isn’t Shrinking, It’s Evolving
You’ve probably heard that humans have the attention span of a Goldfish or something along that line. Many social media experts and gurus advise their clients to focus on brevity. Their content should be short; videos shouldn’t be more than one minute. After posting a 3-minute video on my Facebook page, I remember someone messaging me to say that I should know better. That people are no longer interested in watching a three-minute video on Facebook. They told me that our attention span is shrinking, and the shorter the video, the better.
As a social media strategist, I have always advised my clients to ignore this advice. My feedback has always been that the content’s length doesn’t matter; what matters is the story you are telling. If your story is compelling enough, it doesn’t matter how long your video is or how long your article is; people will consume it. I proved this when I launched the storytelling project IamGrenadian with my colleague Trisha. We had written stories that were sometimes up to 500 words and videos over 5 minutes. The reach and engagements on those pieces of content were terrific.
If someone will spend 2 hours watching titanic, why wouldn’t they spend 3 minutes watching a video on Facebook? I started seeing so many people saying that content should be short that I almost started believing it myself. However, I came across a study done by Prezi and Strategic Consulting Firm Kelton Research called the “State of Attention Report.” According to Prezi, and like I thought, OUR ATTENTION SPAN ISNT SHRINKING; it is simply evolving. It means that we have gotten great at ignoring the plethora of content coming at us; we focus on what is essential.
Therefore, it is the job of content creators, marketers, and anyone trying to capture attention online to create content that grabs people’s attention and wants to consume. Because it’s not that we are consuming less content of shorter content; we are just being selective with the content that we are consuming. The Prezi research shows that our ability to focus is improving over time since we are becoming more selective with the content that we are consuming.
What Is It About Winning Content That Makes It Worth Our Attention?
The question then is how do we create content that people want to engage with? According to the state of attention report respondents, the answer is to tell great stories and have outstanding visuals. We need to start creating content suited to the way consumers want to consume it. 55% of the respondents said a great story captures their attention and keeps them engaged with the content, and 33% said visual stimulation is critical in maintaining their engagement. 35% of millennials said they only engage with content they feel has a great story or theme.
Here’s the thing though our attention is finite, the fact that yes, our attention span is evolving and not shrinking doesn’t mean that there is much attention up for grabs. There are so many channels where people spend time; trying to keep up with them all can drive someone crazy. Our attention is fragmented, meaning it’s split up among many platforms, whether Netflix, Youtube, Facebook, Tiktok and more. So whichever medium you are using, we need to ensure we engage our audience if we want people to hear what we have to say. We need to ensure we create content that reflects how people want to consume that content.
Check out the state of attention report here.
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