We’re all fighting against attention clutter. Our email inboxes are creaking. Our media consumption habits (from newspaper to magazines to TV to radio) are all sporadic and random and very hard to track. It takes more and more for someone to capture our attention and convince us to change our course of action.
Let’s consider this to be the continuum: awareness, attention, engagement, execution, extension. I’ll explain all five, and thread into them how social tools can help.
Before we can build genuine relationships between would be buyers (and let’s use the term “buyer” to mean the person you want to have take an action, be that a change of religious view, a supporter of public parks, a purchaser of tickets to your event, or whatever the person represents in your perspective) and your would be product (be that an opinion, a service, or what have you), one first must be made aware that there’s an offer of some sort out there. If you’re selling the coolest software in the world, but no one knows that, how are you going to sell it? What comes first is awareness.
Awareness is often purchased through marketing. Ads are bought. Events are planned. Something happens where people are made aware that there’s a new offering in the world. This is often the inorganic part of the process, meaning that an effort to capture awareness is launched through means like buying ads in magazines, or on websites, or against some other type of media.
Content marketing like setting up blogs or Internet videos are an inexpensive way to build out awareness, especially if your buyers are online more than not. What do you put in the videos or posts? You tell stories, genuine stories. You add to whatever the primary marketing message is about the product. Tell it as genuine as you can be.
It’s a way to build information and deliver value to your prospective buyer, and doesn’t cost nearly as much as traditional advertising efforts. Building out special websites or microsites or landing pages falls into the category of awareness as well.
What comes next, once someone is at least marginally aware of your offering, is attention.
Attention is a bit more than awareness. It means that people are giving you a little bit more of their time. They expect something back for this, be that entertainment, or a perception of value, or a sense of participation. Attention means that they know you’re there and that you’ve made it into their mind (if only a little bit).
Once you have attention, social software is a great way to keep people engaged. If it’s more 1:1 facing, a service like Twitter lets you as a marketer forge even more connections between your prospective buyer and your organization, through sharing and learning about each other. Attention might just mean comments on blog posts, showing that people are responding back and forth to your efforts. Remember to return the favor by commenting on their blogs, and participating in their media, as well.
Attention can also be maintained by continuing to produce interesting content. This might be blog posts or videos or audio podcasts or even the occasional free ebook. There are many ways to maintain and grow attention. It’s also during this phase that it might matter how you spread attention. For instance, if you’re promoting an event, have you created badges for speakers, exhibitors, attendees (or the like) to share? Have you given people a hash tag to use to reference your product or event?
During the attention phase, tools that allow others to share your media and content are very useful. Think about Digg and StumbleUpon and other means of spreading content digitally. Having that in place helps this move forward.
Engagement in this case means the sustained interaction between you (or your product or brand or service) and your buyer. If I’ve started researching buying a new car, this might be where I’m not absorbing every little morsel of what you’re telling me about the model. Here’s a great place for social tools to kick in.
I don’t buy cars (for example) based on what celebrities say, but I do read reviews. If your offering had social tools to allow for comments, especially if the comments had some depth or sentiment to them (like Quick Comments, for instance), that would be something. If your site permitted passionate fans to upload their own videos or type in their own testimonials, this would feel engaging, too.
It’s during the engagement phase that you can use tools to maintain two-way interactions. Look for ways to engage in a participatory way. What if I could watch video clips of my specific car being built? What if I could say hi to some of the people on the assembly line making it?
Are there ways you can make your buyers participants? Are there tools that will encourage this two way interaction? That’s what you will want to think about with regards to your offering.
In this stage, we’re talking about the actual event, or the purchase, or the delivery of information. This is where it all goes down. Execution might be the conference you’ve been promoting. It might be the purchase of a hotel package. It might be the sale of a new car.
While thinking about execution, are there ways that social tools can smooth the process? If you are staying at a hotel, are there online concierge humans, like they have at the Roger Smith Hotel in New York? Can you make your event shine by broadcasting it live on Ustream.tv? Should there be a backchannel, or will Twitter suffice? How many ways can you share and improve that execution moment?
Finally, extension is a way of moving from what happened to what happens next. For instance, if you sell someone a beautiful new home, why not take a two minute video using a Flip camera and ask them about the process, including asking them for a testimonial? When the conference is over, post up your videos on YouTube (and other places) and your photos on Flickr. Share things where appropriate via the Creative Commons license. Make sure the experience doesn’t end with the execution.
Social software and media making technologies have really made this step easy. A few Flip cameras handed out at a company news event becomes even more footage to use for informational materials. Blogging and live-tweeting a product launch gives everyone a chance to participate, even if they can’t be there in person.
It all amounts to buzz and news that keeps people engaged after the cycle has past the purchasing phase. This translates into new awareness for others, plus a bit of social proof for you around the work you’ve done for someone. These extended actions complete the feeling that your buyer was part of something.
The “Hamburger Helper” of All Marketing
When social software and online marketing are used in the above fashion, they act like Hamburger Helper for your larger efforts. You understand: it’s less expensive and it stretches everything out more. Nothing listed above costs more than a single advertisement placed in a mainstream magazine or large market newspaper.
With that in mind, consider awareness, attention, engagement, execution, and extension as five trigger points where you can deploy social media as part of a larger unified strategy to help improve your marketing efforts.
I didn’t get into details, as this post was pretty long as-is. You’re welcome to add ideas to the post, and/or to ask my any questions. If you have an alternative viewpoint, feel free to blog it, and link back to this post, and we can talk back and forth about it.
What do you think? Did this make sense? Did it change your perspective? What do you think we should explain more? How else can I help?
Photo credit yodel anecdotal
The preceding is part of the Pirate Moves series. There will be five or six of these in the coming days.