Decreasing Attention Spans and Your Website, Social Media Strategy

The increasing prominence of social media and the internet is actually rewiring our brain, literally.

It is no longer news that we’re in a social-driven world. Facebook has more than 1.6 billion monthly active users, while Twitter has 305 million–numbers that are rapidly increasing. What very few people know, however, is that the increasing prominence of social media and the internet is actually rewiring our brain, literally.

In a 2015 study conducted by Microsoft that surveyed 2,000 people and monitored the brain activity of 112 additional people using electroencephalograms (EEGs), it was observed that the average human attention span is rapidly declining. In the year 2000, we could boast of having an attention span of 12 seconds. Not anymore; the Microsoft study revealed that we now have an attention span of eight seconds–making our attention span shorter than that of a goldfish (at nine seconds).

While the Microsoft study seems like just another study observing the implications of the internet on the human brain, it is very important research that businesses should pay attention to; in fact, your current website and social media strategy would determine whether you should be scared or calm.

Here are ways that the decreasing human attention span will affect your website and social media strategy, and what can be done about it:

  • A slow website loading time is, and will always be, your biggest threat: As a business, your ultimate end goal for having a website or being on social media is to boost sales and brand image. However, in the world of fast-declining attention spans, all of the traffic in the world won’t save a slow site. Research shows that a one-second delay in site loading time will lead to a 7 percent loss in conversion; for e-commerce giant Amazon, a one-second delay will result in a loss of $1.6 billion annually.
  • Users are now less tolerant when dissatisfied: Continuing with the discussion above, website speed should not matter in an increasingly social world, right? Well, not really. An Aberdeen Group study shows that a one-second delay in page load time will result in a 16 percent decrease in customer dissatisfaction. How do you know if customers are dissatisfied? Well, that’s tricky. Research shows that 96 percent of customers won’t complain when dissatisfied with a business, and 91 percent of customers won’t come back. The social implication of this: Dissatisfied customers are twice as likely to share their experience with others than satisfied customers. Solution: Improve your website speed. Pretty much every statistic measuring the impact of website speed points to the fact that faster is better; increasing your website speed will increase your traffic, social engagement toward your site and, most important, conversions. A study by Gomez that monitored real user activity from 33 major retailers found that decreasing page load time from eight to two seconds increases conversions by 74 percent.
  • Fine-tune your mobile social media strategy: Right now, there are more mobile internet users than desktop users. More important, research shows that people spend more time on their mobile devices than on desktop devices. This is your opportunity to ensure your prospects don’t totally forget you; mobile strategy goes beyond just search-engine optimization. Social media is just as important, if not more. Using applications, push notifications, mobile ads and other relevant marketing techniques, develop a solid mobile strategy aimed at capturing your prospects’ attention on the go and being with them everywhere.
  • Delayed social response will kill your brand: Not only do people expect a response from your brand–58 percent of people who tweeted about a bad experience with a brand never heard back from the offending company–but they expect it quick. According to a study by Lithium, 53 percent of consumers expect to hear back within one hour whenever they tweet a brand. More important, 72 percent of consumers expect a response within one hour if their tweet is a complaint about a brand or its products. Now, here’s the kicker–and where this seriously affects your brand: 38 percent of people will feel negative toward your brand, and 60 percent are likely to take negative action toward your brand, if you do not respond on social media in a timely manner. Solution: Evolve your social media strategy to involve 24/7 monitoring and quick response times; if possible, make sure to respond to most social media messages within minutes or at most an hour. Not only will this increase consumers’ perception of your brand, but it could also save you avoidable social media drama that could damage your brand.
  • Be proactive with your outreach follow-ups: In a recent study by the USC Viterbi School of Engineering that monitored email behavior of 2 million people based on 16 billion emails exchanged over a couple of months, it was observed that 90 percent of people will respond to an email within 48 hours or never. There’s just so much overload and so little time–apparently, approximately 2.5 million emails are sent every second. If your email is ignored after 48 hours of you sending it, then it will likely never be returned. The solution? Don’t wait. Follow up if there’s no response to your outreach emails, or social media efforts, after 48 hours.
  • Embrace the rule of 7: It’s been estimated that we’re now exposed to about 5,000 daily ads; couple that with declining attention spans, and it makes sense that most of your prospects aren’t even noticing your ads. There’s a reason why major brands increasingly focus on displaying the same ads and ensuring consistent reappearance in every channel possible. I mean, why does that major brand have to show you the same ad 20 times in a single day, on the same channel? Does it make financial sense? Well, research shows that it does. This is tapping into a psychological principle called the “mere-exposure effect,” also known in marketing as “the rule of 7.” The idea behind this principle is simple: The more people are exposed to your offer, the more they take note of it and act on it.

There’s so much going on, and possibly 99.9 percent of people won’t notice your offer the first time; increase the potency of your message by repeatedly communicating it across several channels.

John Stevens is the CEO of Hosting Facts, and he has consulted with hundreds of businesses on sales and marketing strategy.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.