Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Blink and Miss: On Millennials & Overcoming Attention Span Disorder

I read recently that millennials have an attention span of 12-8 seconds - even less than that of a goldfish!

I know that most of you already know that but, what are we going to do about it?

As a creator of content it almost turns me into a ball of knots to think that I have no time to catch attention of the people I am trying to catch attention of - go figure!

I have also been reading up on disruption as a technique to catch attention but, I honestly do not believe that attention grabbed that way can be held for too long. It can be used as a one-time-odd gig to pull people in but, it doesn't guarantee that they'll stick around.

So, what can I do to grab those roving eyeballs and turning heads to stay in place and glued to what I want them to see - my content?

I pondered for a couple of weeks on this and meanwhile, kept rewriting my draft here. I spoke to some of these so-called 'dreaded' millennials and found them not much different than me in habits and behavior. Except for one BIG difference - they were way more relaxed in their approach towards life and that they pursued things with passion. If it clicked for them then, they'd move mountains to work on it.

No wonder then that there are so many web influencers who are perhaps half my age but, they have huge following on web portals and social media. They may not be sharing the best, most polished content but, they were dedicated and honest in their postings. They are also interacting with others in their network. They have grown because they actually read what others were writing, cared to comment and strike up conversations. Plus, they are sharing personalized messages and views on what works and what doesn't. There is a lot of care in the chaos if you look at it closely.

Which led me to believe that they were actually not lacking in attention department but, were pretty high on the passion front. They like to be appreciated and in turn are ready to appreciate other people's handiwork albeit it is a personalized and honest attempt and I am not talking of the bloopers videos!

So, wow! Therein lay my answer.

Buried in the discussions on lack of attention we had forgotten that, we are equally inattentive when it comes to things we don't care for. But, the difference between Gen X and the Millennials is that the later are passionate in their pursuit of what holds their fancy. It does not matter too much if it doesn't bring home the bacon but, it does make them feel appreciated. There are so many of them touring the Earth like vagabonds on tight budgets to be able to click pictures of remote places and share them with the world. There are those who are religiously blogging about their newborns and toddlers or baking recipes. They don't care to follow the tried and tested path unlike their predecessors.

It all fell in place the other day while interviewing a girl for a corporate role, I asked her the age-old HR question, "where do you see yourself five years from now?" I was smugly settled thinking she'd make up a long story about climbing the ladder to the top but, she stole my thunder with, "I want to start my own bakery and be a famous TV food host." She was so convinced that she was going to achieve it by watching YouTube videos of other famous cooks and chefs and baking up a storm in her kitchen. She didn't come from a very well-to-do family nor did she look like someone who had everything provided for her by her doting parents. On the contrary, she was contributing to the family income.

I loved her answer and it made me rethink everything that is being said about the Millennials. They are not seeking what the Baby Boomers had not already asked for. Then why do we criticize them for putting themselves and their families first?

We couldn't even say that to our folks at home forget at job interviews.
After that I decided to look into each and every bit of content that I have been working on and asking myself:

  • Is is great?
  • Does it make an emotional connect?
  • Is it focused?
  • Is it easy to understand and follow?
  • Does it make an impact?

And the most important question:

  • Will it stop me in my tracks if I had not made it myself?

The last question is the most important. If we are able to answer it honestly. A whole lot of issues that we face with audience attention disorder can be done away with if we can answer that one from our guts.

So, my take on creation for the supposedly ADD Millennial audience:

  • Keep it simple
  • Keep it focused 
  • Keep it useful
  • Don't preach
  • Make it your own

Unless we can honestly tick all the boxes, keep reworking. You will hit the sweet spot! (Pun intended) 

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