The world is experiencing online fatigue and there is more competition than ever for viewer's attention. So, how can you break through the noise and capture an audience?
Now, almost one year into our remote and virtually driven lives, there has been a growing resolution that,
- People are becoming negatively impacted by the added screen time and
- There is a growing amount of content.
Thus, since March 2020, the competition for people's attention online is growing but in contrast with a less willing or more picky audience.
In fact, even writing this piece has been an immense struggle for myself—and I'm a massive online content consumer.
This obsessive habit helped me to produce a two-day online conference back in June of this year. The results:
- over 3,000 viewers with
- an average view time of over 20 minutes (the average daily consumption of online videos per day is just over 50 minutes).
But today, it is a hard sell to get me to spend any amount of free time on a screen that doesn't involve immediate gratification like video games, music, or other forms of direct entertainment like The Mandalorian.
Education, online networking, blogging, etc. is all a bit of a struggle to captivate my attention but I don't really need to inform you of this.
We all live in largely the same reality so I won't elaborate any further on this point.
But what can we do about it? How can we compete with the growing swath of content out there and differentiate ourselves?
Below, I'll share some thoughts on this and offer five ideas to differentiate your content. Some I have used, whereas others, I wanted to use but couldn't because of capacity.
When creating content, whether it be for a live event, online conference, commercial, blog, etc. I consider what areas I will be competing on. If you generalize things, there are a three predominant areas you can compete in.
Competitive Battle Grounds:
- Production Quality
- Thought Leadership
- Story Telling
Ideally, you want to excel at all three but in reality, you won't have the budget of Disney, you won't be able to source talent like Pedro Pascal, and you won't get Jon Favreau to tell your story.
So, focus on your strengths.
For me, as I had a limited budget and limited access to global leaders, I chose to compete on Storytelling.
Storytelling can be the most cost-effective, provided you have experience in this space and creativity.
My background includes digital marketing and advertising with clients like 3M, BestBuy, General Mills, Microsoft, etc., so problem solving digital solutions to capture an online audience was a strong fit for me.
Know thyself and choose wisely.
Once you have decided on your weapon/s of choice then I recommend obsessively consuming as much content in that space as possible.
Please try to avoid burnout but that is easier said than done. Particularly if you want to do a good job understanding the market and finding where you can differentiate yourself.
Amazon has leadership principles to guide their company culture and hiring practices. Their #1 leadership principle is "Customer Obsession," which essentially emphasizes that you are in dedicated service to your end consumer, or in my case, viewers.
If you want to create something truly valuable and unique, you have to go above and beyond—consuming a mass of online content is a part of that process.
Know thy competition.
Doing this, lead me down a path to find unique talent and pair them with startup founders to create something purely new.
I am confident that utilizing a similar process will result in unique and differentiating results for whatever you are creating.
However, if you are still struggling with concepts or don't agree with the "Customer Obsession" approach, here are my thoughts. Some tested and some untested.
5 Ideas To Differentiate Your Online Event:
- Live Calls—used in radio, live calls are an amazing way to engage and deepen your relationship with your audience. Allowing viewers to call you live and calling your viewers directly during your stream offers something honest and unexpected, which is compelling. Currently, a great example of this is during Marc Rebillet's musical improv streams.
- Physical Tickets—if you have a friend passionate for music festivals, then you probably know they regularly keep their tickets as souvenirs. The world misses gathering together so something small like mailing your paid attendees a physical ticket would be a great gesture and a strong marketing tool to get attendees to remember you. If we are able to gather in person in 2021/22, you will be one of very few who has given them a physical reminder about your conference or event.
- 1-to-1 personal matchmaking via Phone Calls—something I really DO NOT like about online conferencing tools like Hopin is the very impersonal chat roulette like networking feature. It feels hollow and comes off as a quick fix feature to communicate "Hey look, you can engage with people here." I very much, don't like it as a standalone solution. If you have the resources, capacity, and don't mind work that doesn't scale, then I recommend doing some matchmaking for your audience yourself. The 1-3 calls you directly coordinate per attendee will be more appreciated and useful than forcing attendees to rely solely on the murky networking roulette waters.
- Integrate with other technologies—the Internet is an amazing place. It offers seemingly endless possibilities so why resort to a singular tool for an online event? It can be very limiting. The gaming industry is pretty innovative in Frankensteining online tools. You can do the same! For example, we used our streaming tools, Minecraft, and Discord to network a group of investors and startup founders together.
- Scheduled Screen Breaks—I haven't seen this done yet, but in retrospect I wish it was something that we did. Running a multi-hour stream is a bad idea. Especially, if it is going to stretch beyond 120 minutes. You have zero hope of retaining your audience unless you are Adult Swim or some other heavy hitter. You're better served focusing your content segments within the stream to be short (YouTube videos have their highest engagement when they are between 4-12 minutes long). If the entire stream is expected to last longer than 120 minutes, please facilitate screen breaks. These breaks can be related to the conference or event itself. For example, this would be a great time to schedule those networking phone calls... not video calls... it is a SCREEN BREAK.
I'm happy to help, and good luck to you and your project—this is the way.
Björn Lapakko has a background in product and brand marketing, working for various agencies and corporations across the US. In 2015, he left that world behind and ventured into the startup ecosystem, where he has spent the last 5 years living and working in the Nordics—building a seismic network and community of entrepreneurs, investors, friends, and makers. Currently, Björn is the Head of Startup Extreme—the most intense startup conference in the world.