Attention is incredibly scarce. Why? There are so many ways to divert it. Father Roderick Vonhogen once famously said that the Catholic Church isn’t competing with Islam or Judaism – it’s competing with ABC, CNN, YouTube, and Facebook. The same is true for you, your company, products, or services, and your industry. You are competing for the same 24 hours a day that every other form of media is competing for. The fact that you’re reading these words at all is something for which I owe you thanks because of the myriad other ways you could be spending your time and focus right now.
It used to be in the old days that the easiest way to buy attention was to trade it for money. On a large scale, you bought attention from media outlets. On a small scale, giving away your stuff for free was a great way to trade money for attention. Nowadays, things are a little more complicated. Everyone and everything is the media, which means that buying up attention in media is virtually impossible. Giving away something for free is so commonplace that consumers have grown to expect free as a cost of your doing business rather than a kindness.
So what’s left? How do you still get a consumer to spend some attention with you?
There are two parts to this mystical formula. The second we all know well – have stuff worth talking about, worth paying attention to, worth sharing. Vintage marketing advice. Sometimes that’s enough – in the rare cases when something “goes viral”, or explodes in popularity, word of mouth is enough. The catch is this – in order for people to spread it, they have to know that it exists. That brings us to the first point – how do you get someone’s attention long enough for them to become aware of your existence?
The answer, unsurprisingly, is advertising. Interruption marketing. It’s still a necessity until you reach the critical mass of consumers needed to start spreading the word, a bit like getting a campfire started. After a certain point, you just throw wood on it – your quality products or services. But in the beginning, no amount of wood thrown in a pile will ever turn into a campfire without that initial flame.
What gets that fire started? Well, you can still buy advertising. That doesn’t work as well as it used to, but it does still work if you have the budget. What if you don’t have the budget? For good or ill, social media and social networking amplify Malcolm Gladwell’s Connectors – people who are hubs of their networks with hundreds or thousands of friends, connections, and followers. Find those people, connect with them, invest your time in politely interrupting them, and if what you have is worth paying attention to, they’ll help you get the attention of their networks.
The very best connectors are the connectors in your vertical. While it’s amazing and impressive that my friend Chris Brogan has 65,000+ friends and followers on Twitter, if you’re, say, an independent musician or a freelance photographer, your work will be of interest to only a certain percentage of Chris’ audience. Better to spend your time looking for the Connectors in your vertical, your niche, who have audiences keenly interested in what you’ve got to share.
How do you find those Connectors? That’s a topic for another time…
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