When was the last time you read an article until the end? When have you finished a task without clicking on another tab? How often do you scroll through your twitter feed every day? And how many more questions will you get bombarded with today?

In 2015, attention is a scarce resource.

Despite seemingly endless avenues for marketers to reach audiences online, when it comes to a deeper connection, our lack of attention deems these avenues practically worthless. Unless it’s content that we genuinely engage with. So how can brands navigate through this shift and know what content actually works for audiences losing attention spans?

We need to find a way to get high quality data to tell us about high quality engagement.

 Attention gets fishy. 

Attention gets fishy. 

Audience behaviour is changing. 

Our ability to hold attention is changing rapidly - with every new tech kid and software tool on the block. We’re now on an average of a 5 second attention span online, which probably means we could learn more about focus from a goldfish.

Audience behaviour online and offline is changing too. Who knew we’d be sending disappearing videos to each other 5 years ago? That millennials would be getting their news from Facebook? That we’d find it difficult to sit at a dinner table on our own without looking at our phones? Content can make us feel or teach us something - and in these tough attention times, keep us glued to a single tab for a bit.

There’s no wonder the best brands are shifting towards producing more content. The trick is, of course, great content. Excellent content that makes audiences share, come back, recommend and even buy. Everyone wants to produce content that will go viral, that will create heartfelt loyalty or that will turn into instant purchases. 

But the competition to fight over so many available eyeballs is fierce. And the more we lose our focus, the more we lose it even further. There’s so much branded content out there now, that Nicola Kemp of the Marketing Magazine called it ‘the content obesity epidemic’ in this brilliantly informative article. Brands feel compelled to churn out content, but unless you compel your audience in the first 2 minutes, it goes to wasteland - and a growing online clutter.

As Rudi Shumpert of CMO.com says in this great article, every minute of each day, 72 hours of video content are added on YouTube, Instagram users post 220,000 photos and Facebook users share nearly 2.5 milion pieces of content. It’s speed-dating for eyeballs and content. On steroids.

The need to measure meaningful action online has never felt greater than when it comes to branded content.

Until the laws of physics can crack time expansion, there’s no way that target audiences will process all the content a brand would love them to see. Even if they did, seeing is not good enough. We need more than attention. So what’s the solution when it comes to measuring relevant impact?

Knowing that content works. 

The solution is for brands to know if the content is actually working. How? Audiences need to not only hold attention, spend time on a page or share it to their social media. That’s important and of course, a brand should know that too - viewability leads to attention.

The problem is - as with every human endeavour - we look at big data as a means to validate our intent. But is implicit data - data that assumes intent - such as as Facebook likes, shares and views enough? Having high quality, good and deep data is extremely crucial in measuring how content is engaging people.

So what is high quality, good and deep data?

We need explicit and direct data from audiences that take us from attention to intent. Intent means knowing how audiences are interacting with the content. In order for this to become a ‘deep metric’, this participation element needs to be a) measurable and b) carry with it relevant brand feedback.

Mixed with how the content has been seen and consumed and how it’s performed on social media, participation of this kind is a key metric. It is the only way for brands to know not just if, but how the content has impacted their audiences overall.

The missing metric for great content.  

In times of high content saturation, scarce attention and a century defined by distraction, measuring brand awareness, lift and affinity is crucial. This leads to growing a sustainable community of fans around a brand. Therefore, brand marketers desperately need a KPI that makes us understand minds, not just fingertips on a keyboard.  

Of course, this is something that needs to be executed well and carefully. You know the drill yourself. When you see content that is embroidered in what looks like ads, tools, tracking devices or pop-ups, you don’t engage - no matter how good the content is. It’s not what you’re looking for. So the interaction needs to sit just when and where we are engaged and it needs to be the most beautiful and simple interaction the internet has ever seen.

This new participation metric is an invitation; from a brand reaching out to audiences for feedback. It needs to feel like a toast. Simple, welcoming and meaningful. 

Because every now and then, there is branded content that truly does something to us. It’s that article that we genuinely want to share on Facebook with friends. It’s a site we come back to for advice. It’s through these moments and through the great content that brands should seek a way to measure how, when and why their content had deep, sustainable impact.

Brands we look up to - Red Bull, Adobe, Virgin America, LEGO and General Electric amongst many - are pioneering the space by creating this content already. Red Bull is now a publisher of action-filmed videos that happens to sell drinks. Tomas Kellner behind GE Reports created one of the top brand magazines on emerging technology. Tim Moran created CMO.com, a publisher site that provides useful advice and articles to marketers, created entirely by Adobe. Virgin America got 6 million people to watch their safety video within 12 days of creating it. The LEGO Movie saw the sales skyrocket to $4.4 billion in 2014, 'with double-digit growth in all regions', proving everything about doing content right is actually awesome.    

These brands have already created a community of fans around them that appreciates their content. They are now in the best place to invite their audiences to participate, to have a toast together.

Top metrics for top brands. 

We believe that the top content brands need 3 things to help them further succeed and stay on top of the game in 2015: a) high quality data b) measurable audience feedback and c) ability to see how the content is doing in real-time based on a) and b).

Because big data is not always good data. And lots of content is not always great content. We think it’s time to for brands to create only great content with the measurement that can determine it. Only then can brands truly understand what’s beyond eyeballs and fingertips, improve with the help of their audiences and connect with them for a very, very long time.

And it might even win them their loyalty and instant purchases.