Tech viewpoint on the news feed
A view from Nick Palmer

Tech viewpoint on the news feed

Eight seconds. That’s what research suggests is the average human attention span. Human attention has been compromised thanks to always-on social platforms, a proliferation of screens and the broader availability of Wi-Fi and 3G/4G access.

Nowhere is this attention deficit more acutely felt than with millennials. We always describe millennials as hard to reach, but what we really mean is that we need a rethink of our approach to communications planning.

The mobile screen is paramount to this audience. Checking smartphones before going to bed and first thing in the morning – and hundreds of times in-between – is the norm: typical mobile users check their phones more than 150 times per day. For the most part, smartphones are being used for social networking. Just look at the number of daily Facebook users on mobile: at the last count, up to 556 million (73 per cent of the 757 million active daily users).

Central to the mobile social experience is the news feed – a carefully curated and distributed list of the individuals and media most influential to the user. Becoming embedded in these lists is difficult for brands, and not just because of the human attention-span deficit. In the news feed, they are competing against the latest music releases, breaking news and celebrity scandals.

Brands need to inspire, involve and inform while balancing authenticity with a relevant message

Our response should be to start planning campaigns with the news feed in mind – developing content that is the most appropriate for the audience at any given point in time. This is not about disruption; it’s about creating content that people choose to consume. Brands need to inspire, involve and inform while balancing authenticity with a relevant message. Content needs to meet the consumer desire to surf platforms in numerous iterations, formats and facets. Photos, GIFs, teaser videos, infographics… different elements can draw a consumer more deeply into a brand story.

Millennials also have a unique ability to self-teach, primarily by viewing videos on YouTube. There is a huge untapped opportunity to create content that answers questions. The key is determining what a brand has the "right" (ie. the expertise) to expound on. For example, a camera brand has the right to be the first search result when someone is seeking advice on taking great pictures.

For many brands, the voices of bloggers, vloggers and millennial celebrities may help. Who better to tell a story about headphones than a technology blogger? They have huge followings and a place on the millennial news feed.

The solution for every brand will be different, but the best approach may be to blend the voice of the brand with these other voices: carefully creating and curating content to develop a "body of work" that effectively tells the brand story.

Nick Palmer is the head of content strategy, EMEA, at MediaCom Beyond Advertising