The rise of social media and mobile phones has taken a hit on our ability to focus and concentrate. 

Content today is centred on catering to a distracted crowd. An audience that craves a dopamine hit every time they unlock their phone.

Listicles, 20-second motivational videos, and inspirational quotes flood our newsfeed.  Like a mouse craving a sugar rush over food,  we have been conditioned to digest these bite-size nuggets of information. Yet, such content rarely provides us with any lasting value and are often a huge waste of time.

An unfortunate side-effect is that any content of substance is now superficially skimmed over. The interface of most social platforms encourages this via endless scrolling through newsfeeds, auto-playing videos and displaying alerts for every interaction. In the past 15 minutes of writing this blog, my phone has buzzed 6 times. Try immersing yourself deeply into anything, while your phone is going off every 2 minutes…. it’s not easy! (I’ve since switched to aeroplane mode)…

Grasping difficult concepts, or ideas that require critical thinking has taken a back seat in our daily lives.

What Does Junk Food Look Like?

Let’s look at the publishers who target the ‘entrepreneurs’. Here’s an example from that has just appeared on my newsfeed:

5 Marketing  Trends To Keep Your Eyes on For 2017 

1) Detailed Content

 Your content needs to be relevant and interesting enough for people to read more than the first paragraph. With so much content out there, every piece needs to reach exactly the audience looking for it.”

2) Innovative Social Media Campaigns

“The last year has seen significant changes for the social media landscape…”

3) Interactive Content

“The past few years have shown the power that having an interactive strategy can have. For-profit companies can benefit from studying the ways that other causes are using to garner attention.”

4) Personal Stories and Content

…”Putting a name and a face to your customer base will help them feel connected to your brand and product. It is absolutely essential, however, that this is genuine. If personal accounts and experiences are fabricated, customers will feel betrayed and negative reviews spread faster than positive ones.” 

5) Specific Audiences 

With the ability to reach so many people daily, it’s necessary to be more specific than ever when determining your target audience. Having a blanket campaign that tries to appeal to everyone is going to make your brand fade into all the other content out there. 

While there’s nothing wrong with the above, what does this all actually mean?! What actionable insights can you gain?  If you deconstruct the content all you’re left with is a bit of jargon, [insert Hubspot blog title name generator] and voila! Marketers push it out to millions of users in hope they will subscribe and click on their ads.

The point is, skimming through a 600-word listicle won’t help you.

(Don’t worry the irony isn’t lost on me).

I have no problem with the source I’ve singled out. Most publishers are pushing out content like this, and I’m sure in the short-term it is making them money. But I’m not convinced the effects will be positive in the long-term, for all parties.

Users are increasingly becoming savvy to click-bait. We will begin to see a shift where content quality is directly determined by the value a user receives. This might include; the degree of personalisation or whether it has met/exceeded expectations. I predict social networks will be more stringent and penalise those pushing hollow content.

Back to our aspiring entrepenuer….

Focusing on tactics or ‘hacks’ will not make you great. You could spend 20 years going through thousands of listicles and Youtube videos and still end up in the same spot. The only cumulative effect you will have gained is the depletion of your most valuable resource.

Master the fundamentals before spending time on hacks (credit to Brian Balfour). If you want to be an expert growth hacker – learn data analysis before Snapchat. If you want to be a professional soccer player – improve your fitness before your skills.

Pick a resource that guides you through these ‘fundamentals’  and dedicate weeks or months to understanding it. Or better yet – start doing and learning first-hand. There is no shortcut to the insights obtained through experience.

Start viewing listicles as junk food – every once in a while it’s OK but too much will disrupt your focus.  Ultimately this can prevent you from achieving meaningful self-improvement.

Hope you all had a terrific Christmas and will have an awesome 2019 : )

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