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Author's profile photo Margot Heiligman

Has Our Attention Span Become Too Short for Video?

I spent the early half of this week at MediaPost’s Social Media Insider Summit – a 3-day event where vendors and agencies learn from and engage with brands participating in all aspects of social media: from social networks and photo tagging, to best practices for video virality and twitter’s new Vine service.

It was impressive to see what a high level of “social IQ” brands have and how far they’ve come – from even 6 months ago.  (And, if you like that buzzword, then I’ve got a few more for you.  How’s “marketmatician”?  Or “native advertising”?   “UGC (user-generated content)”? Since we all have more and more tools and options at our disposal, the mechanisms for earning ones’ attention are vast; but we’re still hard pressed to find the best opportunity for personalizing that digital experience for the consumer!  And due to our “inattentional blindness”, we’re not seeing quite some of the interruptions that advertisers try and come at us with.

Enter photo tagging: since we already know that a picture tells a thousand words, why not tag with keywords that offer to set one’s brand in the best possible light?    Better yet – allow consumers to opt-in to let your company use those photos by providing them a unique hashtag to participate in contests, geo-tagging or self- reporting. Check out this example from Chute, a company that developed “StormGrams” for NBC during the recent Nemo storm in the Northeast United States.  Using the hashtag #NBCNEWSPICS consumers could share storm pictures and locations to be placed on the NBC live updated map to follow the storm on a national and local level. 

Micro HD cameras also play a role – not only is tagging possible but sharing a unique perspective personalizes an experience – picture a snowboarder’s video footage or images to better sell snowboards – or a hotelier sharing a certain angle of walking through a hotel room – something which brings the consumer in on a much more personal level. 

One of the innovations in photo asset management is of course: SnapChat – which I would almost put in the category of “asocial” tagging. With Snapchat – you opt to share images only for a few seconds and to only one or to a close group of individuals – with no possibility to forward.  So you eliminate the need to censor yourself constantly – the onus is less on you and more on the app, itself, to use discretion.

And since mobile is a rather typical use case in social, competition for attention is ever more fierce.  For example,according to twitter, some of the most active tweeters are using twitter on mobile – 200 million active users log in via a mobile device at least once every month.  We know that those same mobile twitter users migrate to other social networks and they’ve developed a mobile-sensitized tolerance for attentiveness (ie. Short and sweet). 

Enter: Vine [Speaking of short attention span]. Vine allows companies to minimize the problem of attention – since a video doesn’t get much shorter than 6 seconds.  Here are some of Adage’s recommended ways that you, your company or brand can use Vine.  Easily “Vine-able” are behind the scenes short footage; location (remember: geo-tagging? It’s easier with Vine than YouTube to geotag your posts); contests, UGC, and product demos are all possible in six seconds – and complexity is minimized.  C’mon, it’s only 6 seconds – how complicated can it get?

So in closing, our attention spans are getting shorter – in many cases – too short for the types of videos we’d gladly view on our PCs in a new browser window.  Phototagging with apps such as Instagram – and others – takes seconds and better captures a moment, an angle, a perspective, a impulse. 

Vine is accessible and consumable for mobile users, and as the mobile social network segment is growing, so is the potential to reach an audience of “inattentives”.   I urge you to explore some of these new ways to break the mold and include an evolving audience with phototagging, Vine, and the mobile experience.  In doing so, you’ll accompany the digital consumer on his/her merry way.

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