BitDepth 674 - April 07

Building a presence in Web 2.0: Gaining attention in a crowded space.
The Attention Deficit

You’re planning to talk on the web, is anyone listening? Photograph by Mark Lyndersay.

You've got a Facebook page and a LinkedIn profile, but, as Sprang says, "You still need something."
What should you or your business be doing on the web?
The answer to that is as simple as it is complex. You need to be addressing the attention deficit that is going to be the reality of your web presence.
Lennox Grant, who has read this column critically since it was first published, wouldn't let me get away with just name-dropping something like "the attention economy."

The essential principle of the attention economy was articulated as early as 1971 in scholarly analyses of information overload. In reviewing the first stages of what would become something of a crisis within a decade, the principles of economics were applied to the problem of growing information access. It was soon understood that the emphasis on information throughout history had been on opening up supply, and the new delivery systems were starved of ways to filter, analyse and target it to an audience.

Traditional media acted like a funnel for facts while the Internet reversed that flow, turning ordinary users into tributaries that fed into a raging river of information.
The legacy of that architectural failure in a world of proliferating media and the 24/7 expansion of Internet outlets into millions of feeds of information is that knowledge, once reserved for the few and privileged is now abundant, and the time available for assimilating it all has shrunk dramatically.

Creating buzz
I first encountered some early ways of addressing this dramatic mismatch of information supply and demand while reading Emanuel Rosen's seminal work The Anatomy of Buzz, now available in a revised edition that embraces some of the more potent changes in the information market since the turn of the century.
Buzz, as Rosen explains it, is the critical lever in winning audiences to your messages and effectively winning their attention.
Traditional sales techniques of marketing and advertising have begun the slow but steady migration from dictating to inviting, engaging attention in products and services not by force of will but by crafting the kind of stories that people are interested in hearing.

Media is moving from central sources of authoritative information to more personalised vectors selected by individual consumers, who will, increasingly, choose to visit a YouTube channel as often as they flip through them on a television set.
The challenge facing anyone with a web presence or planning to create one is the same whether you are a sole proprietor offering creative services or a multinational corporation with subsidiaries spread all over the planet.

Making conversation
The only worthwhile goal is the creation of a web presence that meets and exceeds the expectations of your existing and potential audience by addressing their needs, listening to their wishes and crafting real-time responses that create what buzz pros call conversations, exchanges between supplier and customer that inform both positively.

Make no mistake, on the web, you're either selling something or buying it and the currency of trade is attention.
Conversations in virtual space are, quite possibly, the most difficult thing to get started and to maintain because they demand a fundamental change in corporate thinking.
You can't engage in an exchange with customers, whether they be readers of your blog or volume buyers of your product, unless you can respond to them with the richness and detail of authority.

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