In today’s world, many of us are guilty of having what could be described as a ‘go-to scroll mechanism’. Whenever we have a free moment, perhaps sitting in a waiting room, on our lunch break or maybe before we go to bed at night, we often find ourselves scrolling on our phones. Although virtually all social media sites promote the idea of scrolling, Facebook and its newsfeed are arguably the biggest perpetrators.
When we scroll, generally we aren’t looking for anything in particular. Instead we’re seeing what’s been going on with our friends, our family, the world around us. We’ve become accustomed as a society to the concept of internet sensations, hilarious or ridiculous videos that have gone viral with hundreds of thousands of people watching them globally. While we may not pay much attention to this phenomenon anymore, or consider it anything but ordinary, could it be affecting the way we think?
It comes as no great shock that social media sites like Facebook utilise the human short attention span to keep us scrolling, viewing more adverts, and consequently allowing them to make more money.
Although there is a great variety of videos appearing on our newsfeeds daily, you will notice one thing they all have in common is their incredibly short duration. As soon as one video ends, Facebook immediately scrolls itself onto the next one. If you choose to come off that video thread and scroll further down your news feed, there’s a pretty good chance you’re about to come across another video that Facebook is placing there for us to see.
The average attention span for a human is thought to be around eight seconds, a statistic that fell from twelve seconds in 2000, or around the time of the mobile revolution. There’s a reason tweets are limited to 140 characters, why videos on our newsfeed can be considered ‘hits’ at only four seconds long. It comes as no great shock that social media sites like Facebook utilise the human short attention span to keep us scrolling, viewing more adverts, and consequently allowing them to make more money.
Facebook recently announced a change to the way it selects videos to appear on our news feed. Whereas videos were ranked before on metrics such as whether sound had been turned on or whether the video had been opened in full screen, Facebook has now added a new metric called percentage completion. This is how long a video is watched for before it is shut down. The longer the video is viewed for (in percentage metrics), the better the content, and the more news feeds it will appear on.
When building a business, the shorter the social media content the better. People want the information they need, and nothing more. It applies to most areas, keep it snappy, concise and interesting. We live in a world where the opportunity to advertise comes in small windows, and the decision to move on to the next and more interesting video/advert/status is often made for us. After all, why watch a half an hour cooking programme when you can learn to make a moussaka in a twenty second sped-up Facebook tutorial?