Using Distraction to Your Advantage

Understanding what’s catching your audience's attention is really important

Online marketing is a delicate dance most days. There are so many tools available, and you don’t want to use the wrong ones. But now it’s time to worry less about tools and more about your supremely distracted audience, and how some days the wrong tool can be right.

For example, there are many people who eschew Facebook marketing, claiming that their audience “just isn’t there,” so why bother?

Because even if they’re not “there” as often as you’d like (or ever), their friends are, and word-of-mouth marketing is still top dog, and it works regardless of how you initially make contact. The key is to make that contact count and make an impression that your supremely distracted audience talks about beyond the confines of Facebook (or whatever social channel you choose), and to extend that advertising spend in an informed and organized way. You want to blanket the social sites they frequent with advertising that doesn’t look or feel like advertising.

Here’s how:

Pick a segment

Getting the most from your digital ad campaigns demands a strategy similar to creating a viewing list on your Netflix or Amazon accounts—just more fine-tuned, as we both know you’ll never get around to watching all those movies.

The key to effective advertising on social and beyond is very narrowly defining your audience. There can be more than one audience segment that you pursue, of course—just don’t go after everyone possible at once because you’ll be wasting resources and making your efforts impossible to compare/contrast.

Know what’s on

Your viewing preferences often span multiple channels, and the same goes for your audience—they’re hopping around online with at least 10 tabs open at once. So understanding what’s catching their attention is really important.

Become familiar with what’s relevant on every platform and channel so that you can stay tuned in to what your audience is reading and can adjust your campaign to focus on what’s in demand. Facebook makes a surface search of trending topics easy by offering that information in the sidebar:

“The topics that appear in Trending are determined based on the number of publishers that are posting articles on Facebook about that subject and the engagement level of those articles.” And the topics span five categories—top trends, politics, science and technology, sports and entertainment. It’s great for in-the-moment advertising for those able to pivot quickly.

Twitter offers a similar sidebar tool.

You can and also should skim Reddit to see what’s trending there. It bills itself as “the front page of the internet” and lives up to it.

And then there are tools devoted specifically to scouring and sharing top headlines, like BuzzSumo (there’s a fee for that, though), and sentiment analysis is certainly a thing—but don’t go too far with it and trend-jack a serious concern for your own marketing purposes.

Set parameters

After you have some solid ideas and you’re ready to move quickly, you need to streamline advertising execution.

Too many businesses get hung up on coming up with ideas to potentially pursue and never get to the actual execution phase, so don’t dawdle. If you don’t have a process in place for trending idea approval and execution, you need one. Someone needs to have a little (lot) of trust in your abilities to make this a success.

You can set some ground rules to increase everyone’s comfort level by make a strict rule of avoiding politics and tragedies, which is something all smart companies do regardless. You can also create a brand persona that defines how your brand positions itself, why, what your brand personality should be and what your values are, both from a mission statement and a larger world context standpoint.

Once you have those things in place, you should feel safe to move forward. You’re much better off tweaking timely campaigns in motion and learning as you go than you are with over-planning and never moving an idea forward—particularly as you can outsource the actual ad buy portion and focus on analysis of how effective your campaigns are, while keeping your brain share available for creative reworking of those campaigns in motion, rather than managing multiplatform placements.

Streamlining success

We know it’s redundant to execute a digital buy across multiple vendors and their platforms because it cannibalizes performance, leaving you with disparate data and reporting analytics—unless you’re sticking to just one site, which is kind of a waste of all of your “trending topic” research.

You can devote someone to this function and have them maintain one dashboard, or partner with a digital ad partner to create a cohesive report from numerous sources’ information. And while you’re at it, be sure that your advertising doesn’t look like advertising. The goal here should be banner blindness,” as Coegi calls it:

The ultimate goal of native advertising isn’t to earn clicks; it’s to provide value through relevant content. Posting misleading headlines and sales pitches won’t get you anywhere. You actually need to deliver something educational and entertaining. Otherwise, you’re wasting your audience’s time.

They—and you—don’t want to “trick users into clicking on our ads; we want them to engage with the content and develop positive feelings about the company that authored it.”

Taking advantage of changes in trends does require having someone monitoring your campaigns regularly, of course, but imagine keeping pace with trends instead of just analyzing them after the fact and watching with envy as competitors nab your audience. Instead, you’ll be sifting through all of the data quickly to incorporate suggested changes in real time, using artificial-intelligence-powered placement suggestions based on analytics, which will have you moving almost as fast as your target segment can click around the web.

Your efforts with timely placement that pops up multiple times will hit those important touchpoints you need to be top of mind when the time comes to make a purchase. The road to converting consumers is much longer without it—and much more uncertain.

Image courtesy of Antonio_Diaz/iStock.

@MaryCLong Mary C. Long is Chief Ghost at Digital Media Ghost. She writes about everything online and is published widely, with a focus on privacy concerns, specifically social sabotage.