7 seconds or less: Attention span versus first impressions on social media

Marilyn Monroe poster by Andy Warhol

“In the future everyone will have their fifteen minutes of fame”, thus spake psychedelic guru, Andy Warhol. That was 1968! And the flower power hippie movement was the backdrop, as was network TV in the US.

Cut to 2015, and social media inspired micro-celebrities ( or should we say nano or pico celebrities) and you have New York Times carrying an article on 15 seconds of fame.

The article, total read time 15 minutes online ( with graphics and images on) and 5 minutes on mobile ( Reader View Available) dwells on last year’s heartthrob, “hot mug shot guy”, a felon who trended on pretty much all over social media and jumped the chasm into TV, and print.

But, that’s hardly news! The article goes on to mention the “nanofamers” about 200-plus stars with a million-plus followers on Vine (that 6- seconds bite-sized content sharing platform). And then there’s #Instagram, #where #everything #hashtagged #gets #instalove, #instafame, #in #the #hope #of #instasponsors. And did I forget Pinterest, Snapchat, or now the grand old dame of short digital video formats Youtube by Google.

And then in comes this Microsoft study on attention spans, and I quote: “We are moving from a world where computing power was scarce to a place where it now is almost limitless, and where the true scarce commodity is increasingly human attention” – Satya Nadella

The intro goes on to say” The average human attention span in 2000 was 12 seconds, but by 2013 it was only 8 seconds (1 second shorter than a goldfish!)”. Read that again, one whole second shorter than a goldfish, disreputed as one of nature’s most distracted sentient beings.

​With news reduced to 140 characters and conversations whittled down to emojis, how is this affecting the way consumers see and interact with their worlds? Read the Microsoft study here, even though it’s about Canadians.

Now with that noise and news in the background, what can you do to make the most of the First 6 seconds, leaving you a generous 1 second to decide to post/like/share/RT or NOT.

Think First Impressions, like the movie “50 First Dates”, where the hero Adam Sandler as a lothario veterinarian romances Drew Barrymore an amnesiac. Doesn’t matter how long you’ve been on social media, every tweet, post, snapchat, vine video, pinboard, is a first impression, and your million-strong followers want to discover your content afresh every moment.

Now think of real life situations, you have just 6 seconds to make that first impression, before the client, recruiter, investor, date or parent of date, supervisor or competent authority goes back to what s/he was doing, checking out their own newsfeeds on social media on their mobile device, and multi-tasking in a state of “constant partial attention”.

Here’s the first impression tip list from Forbes:

  1. Adjust your attitude. People pick up your attitude instantly. Before you turn to greet someone, or enter the boardroom, or step onstage to make a presentation, think about the situation and make a conscious choice about the attitude you want to embody.
  2. Straighten your posture. Status and power are nonverbally conveyed by height and space. Standing tall, pulling your shoulders back, and holding your head straight are all signals of confidence and competence.
  3. A smile is an invitation, a sign of welcome. It says, “I’m friendly and approachable.”
  4. Make eye contact. Looking at someone’s eyes transmits energy and indicates interest and openness. (To improve your eye contact, make a practice of noticing the eye color of everyone you meet.)
  5. Raise your eyebrows. Open your eyes slightly more than normal to simulate the “eyebrow flash” that is the universal signal of recognition and acknowledgement.
  6. Shake hands. This is the quickest way to establish rapport. It’s also the most effective. Research shows it takes an average of three hours of continuous interaction to develop the same level of rapport that you can get with a single handshake.
  7. Lean in slightly. Leaning forward shows you’re engaged and interested. But be respectful of the other person’s space. That means, in most business situations, staying about two feet away.

But then again, this is for US job seekers,  for deeper query, I found this rather interesting.

Know Yourself gives you the “what” – when you Know Yourself, you know your strengths and challenges, you know what you are doing, what you want, and what to change.

Choose Yourself provides the “how” – it shows you how to take action, how to influence yourself and others, how to “operationalize” these concepts.

Give Yourself delivers the “why” – when you Give Yourself you are clear and full of energy so you stay focused why to respond a certain way, why to move in a new direction, and why others should come on board.

More at the six seconds site here!

Hope this helps make you ‘nano-famous” in a socially constructive way.

Note: it’ll take you 4 minutes to read this piece on making a 6 second impression, irony!  

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