Everyone is Your Competition

How does that headline feel? If you work for a media company, it’s sad but true. As information overload invades our culture, and your audience become more time-crunched, competition for their time becomes overwhelming.

While it is convenient to view your competitors as only those who work within your industry, it overlooks the full picture of your audience, and their lifestyle. Anything that takes someone away from your brand is a competitor. You are now competing with hundreds of TV channels, iPods, Blogs, and the Web as a whole – not to mention other print media and data sources.

Here are some fun new competitors:

  • Linda Stone has coined a phrase to describe our constant state in this world of so much stimuli: “Continuous Partial Attention.” What this means is that we are constantly scanning our surroundings for something more important to devote our attention to.
  • Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal had this blurb tucked away on page D2 that should have been on the cover. It dealt with how to avoid work interruptions, and included this great fact: “The average office worker is interrupted every three minutes and it takes 25 minutes to regain concentration after each interruption, according to a study by the University of California-Irvine.”
  • Teenagers are way more connected, and multi-tasking on levels that are just frightening. Last weekend’s New York Times profiled this generation, and how they are “overconnected.” It describes them this way:
    “As they would explain if they had time, these teenagers, all members of Generation M (born circa 1980 to 2000), have hundreds more friends than you, the adult, had at their age, or ever. And without having to leave their rooms.”

Overall, the commitment paradigm has changed. Media consumption used to be more like dating – your audience would be more likely to spend some time with you.

But you know, dating is so out of style. Now, people simply cruise. And that’s what they do on the web. Perhaps they find you through Google. Perhaps they came directly to your site. Either way, they are just a moment away from zooming to the 100 million other websites just waiting for their attention.

So how do you confront this? Two ways: Solve the needs of our audience. Evoke their passion.

While the tried and true methods of the past century still hold for most media, the web offers many new possibilities. With social media, you can help your audience create, not just consume.

The five basic human motivators are a great thing to keep in mind. (officially called “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” if you want to impress your friends) If you can speak to one of these needs, you can reach your audience:

  • Physiological – Basic human needs include hunger, thirst, shelter, clothing and sex.
  • Safety (Security) – Human need for physical, emotional and financial security.
  • Social (Affiliation) – Human need for love, affection, companionship and acceptance.
  • Esteem (Self Esteem) – Human need for achievement, recognition, attention and respect.
  • Self-actualization – Human need to reach their full potential.

That last one is so essential to many of the driving forces of Web 2.0. Why do people blog? Why do they join online forums, create podcasts, and videos? Why is there this need to create?

Helping your audience channel these needs is the opportunity afforded to us with the many new tools now available via the web.