I recently attended a conference where one of the speakers relayed an astonishing statistic — for every person alive today there are one billion electrical components. It sounds unbelievable, but when you think of all the televisions, computers, mobile phones, and other devices these components go into making, I can begin to see it.
I also can see how we’re using many of these components to effortlessly create and share huge amounts of information or knowledge — potentially with huge amounts of people. In fact, at another recent conference a speaker stated that every day we create eight times the amount of information stored in the world’s libraries. And every day we have easier tools at our disposal to create more content.
The development of social tools and technologies has led us into an idea-driven economy. We’ve always had a ton of ideas running through our heads, but many of them get trapped up there because it was difficult to release them in ways that would allow them to inform people and grow into something real. But now it’s easier than ever to showcase our ideas or knowledge in blogs, videos, and tweets.
So the knowledge economy continues to grow exponentially as we’re better equipped to stream our thoughts into social channels for public consumption. This is great for all of us looking to turn our ideas into customer relationships. But the challenge of a thriving idea economy is the impact it is having on another important economy — the Attention Economy.
The sheer number of ideas we’re able to move into the Attention Economy is stunning… and stifling. The speed at which we can transfer thoughts from Knowledge to Attention is breathtaking, and mind-numbing. In other words the Knowledge Economy — which is in a bull market — is stampeding all over the Attention Economy. The Attention Economy just can’t keep up because it’s running at full capacity already. This means that many of our ideas will never get the attention we want them to have — or need them to have in order for our businesses to meaningfully connect with the right people.
Because penetrating the Attention Economy is important to growing a business in the era of social media, we have to focus on having better ideas, and/or more interesting ways to deliver them. With technology tools making it easier to push ideas out, the focus has to go from the mechanics of creation to the quality of what we create. While it’s cool to be able to push out a blog post in a second, or make a YouTube video with a click of a button, you have to remember that you are one of billions adding to the overwhelmed Attention Economy. There are over 200 million blogs and who knows how many digital videos.
Sometimes we need help in generating the kind of ideas that can rise above the noise and grab the attention of the right people. And that help should come from them. The same tools we’re using to deposit our ideas into the Attention Economy can help us understand what’s important to our target audience — in a sense creating a listening economy (with lots of room to grow). Using social tools to listen and understand what’s important to the people we’re trying to engage can help us generate ideas that speak more directly to their needs — improving our chances to captivate them.
Even when we do include listening into our idea-generating process that doesn’t me we can rely on traditional formats and social outlets to get them the attention they need. It may call for more than a blog post to hit the mark, or even a bunch of tweets on Twitter. In all likelihood it will call for expanding the way you view content.
A company that has an expanded view of content and ideation is Hupspot. Hubspot creates Internet marketing software that thousands of businesses use to run their websites. And while they have a very popular blog as well as their own Internet TV show, a big reason for bringing on so many customers in three and half years is because of their other content — their grader tools. Website Grader is a free tool that analyzes a website’s marketing effectiveness and grades it on a scale of 1-100, from low to highly effective. Not only does it give a grade, but it creates a report that offers tips for improving your site’s score. And I’m thinking this information is why more than one million domains have used Website Grader. That’s a lot of attention. And a lot of attention also has been paid to other Grader tools, like Twitter Grader, Press Release Grader, and Facebook Grader.
Hubspot listened to what was on the minds of their target audience, incorporated those needs into their ideation process and came up with some cool, meaningful ways to capture attention. They used blogs and social media to share their expertise, but also threw in this other form of content that really moved the needle. And they continue using this formula with Book Grader.
Book Grader caught my attention for a variety of reasons. Having co-authored a self-published book, I’m always on Amazon.com looking to see what our sales rank is, and to see if new reviews were left. I’m not alone in this as self-publishing is exploding. Book Grader is a free tool that allows you to create a list of books you can track. It taps into Amazon so you can see what each book’s sales rank is (and a nice historical graph of sales rank). But it also notifies you when a book hits a new Amazon sales rank, and sends you an e-mail when a new review of the book is added. It also shows you other books referring to a book. And this is the kind of information that can give you insight into better ways to market your books, as well as keep up with the information in real time.
Hubspot’s grader tools are not only helpful to those that use them, but they’re also great pieces of content that grab the attention of those looking for solutions to challenges. These tools serve as Hubspot’s entries into the Attention Economy, along with their blogs, videos, and tweets. They listen, they learn, and then they create ideas with those thoughts in mind. They use what’s available from Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook and create something unique out of it. So unique that their voice is distinctive from the majority of others screaming for attention.
So put those social tools (and billions of components) to use to help your ideas stand out. Listen and explore how you can get your share of attention. Figure out what you may be able to create from the data and tools available from the likes of Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Twitter. You don’t have to build it yourself, but understand what can be done and have someone else do it for you — that’s what sites like Elance and Odesk are for. Whatever you do, make sure you create ideas that are in synch with the people you want to connect with, and then find a way to captivate them with it. That’s how you create effective economies of scale for your business.
Brent Leary is a small-business technology analyst, adviser, and award-winning blogger. He is the co-author of Barack 2.0: Social Media Lessons for Small Business. His blog can be found at http://brentleary.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/brentleary.