Want to make it big in the Attention Economy? Get up to speed on participation marketing
The internet is full of crap. Harsh, I know, but true.
Every day we're bombarded with an overload of information from every angle. This can lead to what's known as the Attention Economy. It's the understanding that human attention is a scarce commodity. The currency here is time and, as in any economy, if all you're peddling is useless junk, no one is going to spend a cent (or a second) on it.
Whenever your website pops up in someone's search results that person has to make a choice: to click on your link, or someone else's? There is always an opportunity cost. (Learn how to maximise your search rankings with these tips.)
The key to thriving in the attention economy is making sure what you're offering is worth a user's time. If someone is going to spend their precious currency on your content, it had better be worth it, or you risk losing them forever. There are a number of ways you can achieve this (look at some of my previous posts for inspiration) but one of the most effective methods is participation marketing.
Alan Rosenspan gives a great definition over on alanrosenspan.com. He says participation marketing is the marketing equivalent of playing Twister. You're never quite sure which part of your program belongs to you and which to the customer.
Gone are the days when it was a marketer's job to control a conversation; these days it's all about encouraging users to engage with – and even create – content, and enabling participation is the ultimate lubricant.
It's a long-term commitment and it involves you providing the means for users to get involved. Encouraging participation is achieved by creating pathways and opportunities for users to create their own contact and marketing strategies, and even their own products and services.
It can be as simple as having users participate by liking or voting on a post, or as complex as this co-creation campaign by Vitamin Water.
The key to unlocking the potential of participation marketing is to make sure what you're offering is valuable. Consumers will always ask 'What's in it for me?' You need to have a unique answer, one that's both fun and rooted in your core brand strategy. Incentives are great too and they need not necessarily involve money; fame and recognition work just as well.
If you truly want to raise your stock in the attention economy, you need to be focused on creating time-sensitive, engaging campaigns that allow users to embrace their addiction to interaction. They're all participation addicts (whether they know it or not) and it's your job to be an enabler.
Richard Parker is the head of digital at strategic content agency Edge, where he has experience working with leading brands including Woolworths, St George and Foxtel. He previously spent 12 years in the UK, first at Story Worldwide then as the co-owner and strategic director of marketing agency Better Things.