Attention - Don't Squander This Precious Commodity

Avinash Kaushik / May 2012

In this installment of Provocative Ideas, Google Digital Marketing Evangelist and Market Motive Inc. co-founder Avinash Kaushik talks about how, in our hyper-fragmented world, the single best thing a brand can do for itself is find a way to get attention. But, he warns, you also don't want attention just for attention's sake.

We live in a hyper fragmented world with, quite literally, hundreds of TV channels, thousands of social connections and millions of websites. In this environment, the single biggest gift any brand can get is attention. And not just the few seconds you get by showing 19 ads on one web page, tweeting one relevant link, showing the same ad for DirecTV six times on one 23-minute Hulu program, or showing up for a query for "flights to Sao Paulo" when you only fly to Europe. Attention is a brand's most precious commodity, but it's all too easy to squander that attention if you don't get every element of your messaging — including your social-media messaging — just right.

Positive attention on social media platforms results from understanding the true strength of each channel and then engaging uniquely with your audience. Here's a good example. I bike-ride a lot. I walk a lot. In general, I'm a big fan of exercise. I would follow Gatorade on Twitter with the exercise connection of that brand. But to me, Gatorade's social media messaging has been less than optimal. Why? Because sometimes they seem to be using social media just to get attention for attention's sake, and not to deliver more meaningful messages. Too often they just retweet other peoples tweets about them, which isn't making the best use of their potentially very powerful social media presence.

Positive attention on social media platforms results from understanding the true strength of each channel and then engaging uniquely with your audience.

How could Gatorade have better gotten and held my attention? I think a Twitter stream about hydration would be worth following. I also think their tweets could better support their excellent offline campaign, "Helping athletes get the most out of their bodies before, during and after activity." Why don't more brands go for grabbing my attention and keeping it in their social media efforts? Why not bring the same level of care and detail to doing social media right, and winning a direct relationship with me, that major brands almost always put into their TV and print campaigns? Not favoring one or the other, but doing both exceptionally well. That's how you earn positive attention.

Or consider: Why do Priceline and Expedia mobile apps only do pricing? Why do they not have a "TripIt"-like functionality built in? If they did, I would move way beyond having an app that searches for hotels, to having an app that is central to my life. (TripIt genuinely provides such value.) It would be an app I would use all the time, and that I would, of course, turn to whenever I thought about booking future travel.

Get it? The best way to get attention is by creating irresistible, daily utility.

I apply this thinking to my own social media efforts. With 55,000 RSS Subscribers and 110,000 visits a month, my blog, Occam's Razor, could make a few dollars with AdSense, or Display ads, or some other annoying interstitial offer. It could also make a few more dollars if I constantly promoted my books in all my posts. Yet I don't do this. Instead, Occam's Razor simply provides content. (My motto for my blog has always been: "incredible, relevant, of value.") You see, I don't want your AdSense clicks. I want your attention. And I know I can monetize your positive attention 100 times more than I can leveraging all the other nuisance messaging combined.

So what is your business shooting for online when it comes to digital marketing? What are you doing to earn, and keep, attention?

Building a brand in an age of hyper-targeted messaging