This is a story about change. Humans have a very linear perception of how things evolve: we believe things will change at broadly the same rate. The truth is, things have never changed so fast before… and will never change so slowly again. Even the concept of Moore’s law, where processing power doubles every 18 months, has been declared redundant by MIT. The truth is, technological change is exponential. Which means that we have to adapt ever faster to make our marketing communications more in step with consumer behaviour.
The micro-moment was a term coined by Google in 2015 to describe the multitude of fragmented interactions consumers have with their mobile devices throughout the day. From checking email, weather and travel updates in the morning, through the daily round of messages, social feeds and impulse purchases, to longer audio/visual entertainment experiences, the constant need to watch, read, listen, learn or buy something, while in the act of doing or waiting for something else, presents both huge opportunities and tremendous challenges for brands seeking to compete for attention.
Here, we consider four strategies to win in micro-moments:
- Made for the messengers
Without doubt the biggest growth area over the last 12-18 months has been on messaging platforms. WhatsApp now leads the way as the leading communications platform in the UK, generating a daily user average of over 28 minutes, even though individual sessions can last no longer than a few seconds at a time. One tactic to become part of the fabric of these communications is to embrace the image-led “post-literate” culture adopted by Gens Y&Z.
There are now two very distinct use cases for media: media that is intended to be consumed (TV, film, literature) and media that takes on a secondary meaning when used as part of a social communication. Increasingly, we co-opt existing content: still images, GIFs, cinemagraphs and video clips, as a proxy for written communication. MIT has a research project mapping the emotion of GIFs. Fox, producer of The Simpsons, recently harvested all 593 episodes into social content covering every possible sharable moment.
- Turn 15 seconds into 15 minutes
We are all aware of the time-sink that is social media, as anyone who has reflexively opened a Facebook or Instagram feed only to find themselves scrolling and tapping maybe 10 or more minutes later, can testify. So while the initial hook is critical to engaging in the feed, there are opportunities to extend micro-moments into extended user sessions that would beat most brand site’s metrics.
YouTube has long spoken about the rise in user sessions, while Facebook focusses on dwell time as a key performance metric. Both platforms have developed algorithms to reward content that extends the user’s time on platform. Intent is a key driver and even when applied to messaging platforms, can lead to much deeper participative experiences that challenge and reward.
- Context, what context?
Architecture students learn that when designing a building, it’s important to consider its surroundings. During Hong Kong’s construction boom in the 80s and 90s, the rule was made redundant by the sheer pace of development: before your project was complete, your neighbours had very likely pulled their buildings down to make way for something more ostentatious.
Navigating the news feed can feel like a similar challenge. BuzzFeed’s Jonah Peretti likens the feed to a Parisian café, “You have a copy of Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, a copy of Le Monde, the newspaper, and next to you, as is often the case in Paris, is a cute dog. You read philosophy; you read the news; you pet the dog.”
Brands must think about micro-moments as a dvertising breaks on steroids. Content needs to be more impactful, more disruptive and more distilled than ever before. Be provocative, be bold, take risks. Pop above the parapet and above all, create a reaction. Find your “unfair advantage” and laser in on it.
- Earn the right to be in the feed
The average smartphone user scrolls around 150m per week, so the amount of content that simply passes us by is incredible. Brands have to earn the right to be in the news feed and yet most sponsored posts on Facebook are still no more than cut downs of a TVC creative, which typically builds a narrative over 30 seconds to deliver its message at the end.
Mobile attention works in precisely the opposite way, with 100% of viewers present as the video begins, falling to 25-30% by around the fifth second. So not only do you have to capture the user’s attention in the first three seconds, you need to deliver your message up front as the majority of your target audience will move on within 10.
Each platform presents its own creative challenges, so campaigns need to craft a suite of distributed extensions that are designed for the relevant platform. The same idea can be executed as a 45 second Facebook video and a 22-minute podcast episode. But most important is understanding the dynamics of internet culture: how to create social currency and earn the right to be there in the first place. “Always on” is one of the very worst mantras afflicting marketing teams and only results in a plague of nontent. Be clear about the value you are adding, or step away from the vehicle.
Reaching consumers used to be straightforward: brands just had to go through media owners, via ad spaces or PR to access the intended audience. Now brands can reach audiences directly through search and social, but the content ecosystem is much more fragmented.
By thinking like the user, creating for the platform and personalising experiences for the moment, a new paradigm of mobile-led, intent-driven marketing opens up that thrives off the the interplay between search and social.