Every time I open up my Facebook account, I have a certain routine I follow. One of the first things I check is the list of trending topics to the left-hand side of my news feed. Over the course of the day, this list might change: last night’s Knicks loss might be the hottest topic one minute, only to be replaced in importance by the latest Supreme Court ruling thirty minutes later. And unlike in the past, where stories remained in the public consciousness for weeks if not months, the fast-paced nature of social media and the constant barrage of media-worthy items in the present day has made people’s attention spans shorter.
Don’t believe me? The goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds, but a Microsoft study found that people lose concentration after just eight seconds. This shines a spotlight on how our modern digital lifestyle affects the brain. Researchers uncovers that from 2000 to 20015, the average attention span of study participants dropped from 12 seconds down to eight.
This lack of focus poses difficulties for brands. After all, how can brands tailor their ad campaigns if there are no longer focal points of pop culture to riff off of? And, more importantly, how can brands make sure that their target audience is seeing their ads in the first place, if they don’t know where to place their ads for maximum resonance?
To address this problem, brands first have to be aware of their target demographic. If they are looking to attract Baby Boomers, then it doesn’t make sense to spend all your ad dollars on Buzzfeed. If their target is Generation Z, then Snapchat becomes a much more attractive option. But the issue isn’t solved simply by knowing what platforms your demographic is most likely to be on. After all, if every brand targeting Generation Z starts buying up ad space on Snapchat, the expense and competition will likely outweigh the benefits.
The Relevancy Gap
So, if the answer isn’t to focus solely on running ads on properties that your demographic generally frequents, then what is? Relevancy, for one. The biggest issue that advertisers struggle with is ensuring that their ads are relevant, not only to the product that is being sold but also to the consumer base they’re trying to reach. You might create the perfect ad, but unless that ad is being shown in the places your customers frequent you’re never going to get anywhere. People no longer visit websites out of loyalty. They’re driven by content — whether it’s a specific scoop from a news organization, or a video going viral on a third-party site.
This is not to say that companies should stop buying advertising space on sites like Snapchat, Buzzfeed, and The New York Times. It does mean, however, that advertisers now have to venture forth into the unknown. Helping find the right places to connect with audiences needs to be near and dear to every brand and advertiser. The problem is that most advertisers focus on buying advertising space on sports or news websites, and that’s not really how people navigate the web anymore.
The most significant issue facing advertisers who take the former approach is that, because there is no longer one dominant place where customers flock to, it makes it incredibly difficult to determine where to buy advertising space. And because there are so many topics trending on Facebook and Twitter at any given time, companies often find it difficult to hone in on the topics that matter to their audience.
Solving the Problem
One company I’ve come across lately, Taykey, seems to have found at least one way to tackle (and solve) this growing issue. Instead of having someone manually sort through all the posts that are trending on social media, and reworking your ad campaign to incorporate them, their trend advertising technology does the work for you. Their platform looks at millions of pieces of data and analyzes them for trends relevant to a brand’s target audience, finding the articles, videos, images, and other trending content that their demographic is most likely to engage with. It then optimizes a brand’s ad campaigns by placing ads next to that trending content, ensuring that they’re seen by the people most likely to buy said brand’s product.
A platform like Taykey doesn’t just help brands optimize their ad campaigns: it also allows marketers to redirect their attentions from the technical to the creative. Frankly, strong and relevant creative is what’s going to win out in the end, anyway. Brands want to know who’s talking about what, and to get more ‘nimble’ information about audiences. Platforms like Taykey help advertisers get aligned with what their consumers are talking about, not only by placing ads in the appropriate forums but also by providing relevant data insights.
As consumer audiences become increasingly fragmented, these insights become an integral part of determining advertising strategy. People may keep moving around, but it’s the advertiser’s job to follow them.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.