We used to laugh at the attention span of a goldfish, widely accepted to be 9 seconds at best.
We’re not laughing anymore.
One of the reasons is a study published by Microsoft in 2015.
In a survey of more than 2,000 people with a further 112 wired to an electroencephalogram to monitor brain activity when they engaged with various forms of digital devices and platforms, the study found the human attention span is decreasing.
It now stands at 8 seconds. In case you’ve forgotten what was at the top of this page, that’s 1 second less than the average goldfish.
While cognitive demands for novelty have compromised our ability to focus, this attention deficit is especially acute in information rich environments such as the one we inhabit. While the deficit feeds neatly into the demands made on our attention by social networks, many apps, games and short content, it is problematic when it comes to the commercial use of digital technologies.
Digital transformation is no longer a matter of choice: it’s a matter of survival, yet between two thirds and 90% of all new software implementations fail or, at best, are the source of endless frustration.
The reason for this is because, as Steve Jobs said, “technology is nothing”. It's people that drive change and it’s people who have to make your digital marketing strategies work – the same people whose attention span has now been superseded by that of the humble goldfish.
The key to the success of any digital project, especially your digital marketing and the platforms you choose to deliver it, is to humanise the process.
Keep it as simple as it can possibly be. With any technology, our temptation is to begin by exploring all the wonderful things it can do. While this satisfies our craving for novelty, it is counter-productive in the short term. Success requires that we start with what the technology needs to do (e.g. track leads, automate workflows, create clear reports etc.) and let complexity emerge as a gradual process.
Have a plan for what you want your digital marketing to achieve. This should never be a nebulous long-term vision (plans never survive that long). Rather create well-defined, sort and medium term outcomes the marketing has to deliver and measure performance against them. When evolving your website, do it with the express aim of making the user experience simpler. This will involve, again, putting people, and the limitations of our cognitive architecture, before technology.
If you’re looking for the ‘blocker’ in your business - look in the mirror! Resistance to complexity is hardwired and no-one is exempt, so understand that for an implementation to work and for it to improve the outcomes of your digital marketing, means learning about your own biases.
Finally, marketing technology will reflect the current state of your business. We mentioned Steve Jobs above (remember?), so we’ll end with Bill Gates who said the “first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”
Read more about our approach to digital transformation and digital marketing here - and remember to take a break every 8 seconds!
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by Dr Peter Hughes Apr 4, 2019
Co-founder of Cognition, psychologist and expert in digital transformation and decision science. Peter is a published writer and has facilitated digital transformation projects in the UK, Europe, South America, Russia, the Middle East and Asia.