News / Ottawa

Content not the only king in social media garden, says attention economics guru

In the media content is king, but emerging from the Internet is a new factor, says University of Ottawa social media guru, Adrian Ebsary - people's attention.

"Right now there are very few rules about how attention is spent online," said Ebsary speaking ahead of the Social Capital Conference July 21 where he is presenting on attention economics.

"But there will come a time when people become aware of their attention investment. As that time approaches, we're going to see increased difficulty in attracting attention online."

Writing in 1971, Nobel Laureate, Professor Herbert Simon, coined the term 'attention economics' to highlight how important our attention becomes when we have an overabundance of information.

With more than 500 million users sending out 50 million tweets per day on Twitter and some 901 million Facebook users inundating the net with posts and updates, it's easy to get caught up in the chaos, Ebsary said.

"As individuals, if we have a message we want to spread, knowing how to manage that attention capital is important. Good social media etiquette becomes crucial and indicates to your followers that you value their attention."

Ebsary calls himself a recovering follow-backer for the common Twitter practice of following those who follow you on the social media network. "But as a strategy, that doesn't make sense in the long run," he said, "since it dilutes your attention and devalues the important relationships you've established."

Other Twitter no-nos include tweet bursts where someone sends out multiple tweets at a time and using apps like Foursquare to broadcast your location.

"Bursts is the biggest reason people will unfollow you on Twitter," Ebsary said. "If you prove to people that you're taking their attention for something useless, it tends to solicit unfollows."

In many cases we are exposing ourselves to too much information and not going back and managing our attention afterward, Ebsary said, noting that just cleaning up your social media networks can have a great improvement on efficiency.

For him, the future belongs to those who can target their message most effectively to niche audiences.

"Using selective broadcasting techniques is becoming so important," he said. "You have to be more considerate of your audience and their concerns."

The Social Capital Conference kicks off Saturday July 21, 2012, at Algonquin College, 1385 Woodroffe Ave.

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