How to Capture the Attention of Multiscreen Consumers

Published on January 18, 2020

Capturing and keeping consumers’ notoriously short attention spans is hard enough, but in a multiscreen world, that attention is increasingly split. Multi-screening has been growing for years and the GlobalWebIndex 2019 Q1 reported 72% of people ages 16-24 say they use social media while they are watching TV. This demonstrates how ingrained this behavior has become, particularly for Gen Z.

Experts claim this habit perpetuates itself, as turning to multiple screens diminishes our enjoyment of an individual experience. We’ll reach for our phones because the TV alone isn’t enough to entertain us, but this constant overstimulation leaves us wanting more. The fact that we’ll often use the ad breaks to check our phones throws the effectiveness of TV advertising into doubt, but the truth is whatever outlet consumers choose, marketers can no longer take a captive audience for granted.

Acknowledging this behavioral shift and adapting a marketing strategy accordingly is essential. As Facebook concluded in its recent multi-screening report: “In today’s ‘attention economy,’ it’s crucial to understand how your audience consumes different media, and to align your marketing plan accordingly.”

Value is key

Connection and entertainment are key motivators for social media users. Thirty-eight percent listed finding funny or entertaining content as their number-one priority. This is ahead of the 31% which use it to research products they want to purchase. If your brand is able to offer both, then you are giving your audience multiple reasons to follow you.

Brands may be reluctant to invest in content that doesn’t drive a direct sale, but offering customers value to their life — whether that’s tutorials, information, or even funny memes — will establish brand love and loyalty. The best examples of this come from brands who know their target customer inside out and invest in highly relevant content.

Mobile optimization

The multi-screening trend proves that very little can tear us away from our phones. It’s the portal through which we experience so much: entertainment, connection, shopping. Ensuring that content marketing has been created with mobile in mind will put you a step ahead of the competition who are still repurposing assets that weren’t custom built.

Social content creators are one group with the proven ability to capture the attention of this mobile-first demographic. Their vast and loyal followings are a testament to this. Now, brands are leveraging this know-how by commissioning them to create branded content, and more than half of marketers say it outperforms their brand-created content.

Clear and actionable

In order to make the most of consumers’ brief attention, you need to ensure that your marketing message is clear and instantly digestible. Viewers need to be able to understand it with one eye on your ad and one on the TV. Brands can consider adding subtitles to videos, catering to the expectation that they may not be watching with the sound on, or getting your branding within the initial few frames.

Making it easy for audiences to take action will also be beneficial. Social media gives so many options for instant calls to action, like Instagram Stories’ ‘swipe-up’ function or shoppable tags in the main feed. These features reduce the friction to purchase and convert your customer faster, crucially, before you lose their attention.


Video has been found to be up to five times more engaging than static images. Videos that feature sound and moving graphics require more of our senses and are more likely to capture our attention. The good news is that the high-performing nature of video is easy to mimic in a cost-effective way through animated elements in social ads.

High-quality assets can easily be transformed into short cinemagraphs and gifs. Optimized for Instagram Stories or carousels, they can also include calls to action, perfectly placed at the moment of inspiration. Campaigns with these elements have achieved huge return on ad spend.

Consistent branding

It’s important to remember that audiences are flitting from TV to multiple social platforms. Ensuring they have a consistent brand experience, whichever app they are on, will elevate your brand awareness and increase trust. This should be a consideration when brands brief content creators, aiming to generate content that performs well across multiple platforms and formats.

Ultimately, social media creates as many opportunities for marketers as it does distractions for the consumers. As always, evolving your strategy to meet your target audience is the goal.

The article How to Capture the Attention of Multiscreen Consumers by Aaron Brooks first appeared on Street Fight Magazine.

Related: Making Human Connections in the Age of Automation

Street Fight is a media, events, and research company focused on the business of hyperlocal content, commerce and technology. At Grit Daily, Street Fight covers the business of hyperlocal marketing, commerce and technology.

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