In the modern digital world, the way we consume digital content is always changing, and our attention span is suffering because of it.

Never have we had access to such an array of information, at the touch and scroll of a screen, on a device that we can take with us, anywhere.

This information overload creates a shortened attention span, and now our minds are occupying both online and offline scenarios.

In 2019 a study called “Accelerating dynamics of collective attention” was carried out which looked at how long topics were popular for and how our attention span changes over time. They did this by monitoring Twitter hashtags. By looking at popular hashtags, they were able to lculate the timespan from when a hashtag is used for the first time until it reaches its maximum popularity, and then until people stop using it again.

Results showed that hashtags were popular for 17.5 hours at the start of the study and later went down to 11.9 hours in just three years.

Even the length of the songs that we listen to are changing, due to our shortened attention spans paired with the economics of streaming. Kanye West’s album “The Life of Pablo” (2016) tracks were 38% shorter than those of his album “Twisted Fantasy” (2010).

Songs are also getting snappier, with shorter intros and earlier choruses.

The effect of lockdown in countries like the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand due to the Coronavirus pandemic, further revealed that we are a species of short attention. In February earlier this year, there was a 300% increase in people searching “how to get your brain to focus”, a 110% increase in “how to focus better”, and a 60% rise in “how to increase focus”.

Even the search term “I am bored”
spiked in March.

Interestingly, when it comes to more longer form content for research purposes, people seem willing to put the time and effort into such a task. Linkedin has also started ranking their content based on ‘dwell time‘, so for a post to be useful, it must capture a users attention. Likes, comments & shares will no longer dictate the ranking of posts in the news feed, but rather, the time spent reading the content by other users will determine it’s popularity.

Forbes recently released an article which stated “Attention Builds Brands”. Years ago, this attention would have been focussed solely on TV, print and outdoor advertising. But with people spending more and more time on their smart phones, our already short attention spans coupled with our daily habits result in the average person checking their phone once every 12 minutes.

So with all of this in mind, as a brand, it’s important to consider how best to engage your customers with so much content vying for their attention.

Banner advertising being missed by users is common. Ads that don’t relate to the content users are really there for, as well as poorly designed ads, are not going to grab a users attention within those crucial first 1-2 seconds that a user casts their eye on new elements that appear on their screens.

It’s no surprise that content is becoming more visual, with brands opting to use image and video more as a way to engage with their customers.

Our brains naturally process images much faster than text, with humans preferring to communicate in a more visual manner. That said, longer form written content on platforms like LinkedIn are proving to be highly engaged if executed well, alongside the fast conversational environment of Twitter.

To summarise, in the modern digital world of information where users have a shortened attention span compared to previous generations, how can a brand maintain high ethical standards that demonstrate values and principles of authenticity, integrity, trust and moral character whilst also ensuring their target audience is seeing their content and engaging with it?

Our team have spent the last decade (more on that soon!) partnering with brands across all sectors to develop bespoke and robust marketing and communications strategies structured around core objectives, whilst ensuring ethical standards are met at all costs (also more on that soon!). If you’d like to meet to discuss how we can support you, please do get in touch!

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