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The Attention Economy: Under The Influencer

I have a word for a person who listens to the advice of an ‘influencer’ over the opinions of their friends. That word is ‘idiot’.

Article contribution by Byron Tully

In the attention economy, the customized digital experience you are served is drastically different from that of the person next to you, driving isolation and disconnection. © Getty

In my recent efforts to promote Old Money, New Woman, I’ve looked into advertising and publicity strategies, many on the digital frontier.

I have royalties coming in every month from book sales, obviously. The conundrum that I face, with every other author and business owner on the planet, is how to maximize marketing efforts without wasting money.

The blunt equation is: will an advertising dollar spent here, on a particular platform, bring in more than a dollar in revenue? If it doesn’t, I’ve wasted my dollar. To get an idea of how wasting a dollar affects me, just recall a television drama you’ve watched in which the paramedics lean over a man, slap the paddles on his chest, and yell, “Clear!”

Okay, maybe I don’t react that poorly, but I don’t like wasting money.

So I’ve done a little research, and the information I’ve found–from people who are trying to get me to spend money on advertising, no less–is disturbing.

First, let me explain: I’m trying to target millennials, a slippery group if there ever was one. I want to help young people before, not after, they face some of the bigger choices in their lives, before they make mistakes.

The landscape I face is daunting. A person in this age group has to see an ad an average of 7 times before they consider buying the product or service advertised. They are also more inclined to listen to an ‘influencer’ as much or more as their own circle of friends when it comes to purchasing a product or service.

That first statistic, I’m sure, is worrying for business owners and advertisers alike. How do you reach people cost effectively if you have to get their attention 7 times before they even think of buying your product?

The second fact is simply mind boggling. An ‘influencer’ is just a paid commercial spokesperson who is hawking something, usually on social media, in exchange for money. (Be very wary when the media manipulates words: it’s a warning sign.)

© Shutterstock

I have a word for a person who listens to the advice of an ‘influencer’ over the opinions of their friends. That word is ‘idiot’.

Your friends, dear millennial, may also be idiots, but at least they know you and probably want what’s best for you most of the time. An influencer is a shill, a fairly archaic term which remains appropriate in this case.

(I like the word ‘shill’ for its brevity and its resonance. I love a word that sounds like its meaning. Abbreviation, on the other hand, does not sound like its meaning. It should be ‘abby’, in my opinion. A long word should not mean a shorter word, but that’s beside the point.)

Like many people, I’m concerned about the insidious effects of social media on the thought processes and attention spans of all people, not just young people. I’ve tried to less the damage in my own life by retreating, restraining, and refining.

I’ve retreating from the amount of time I’m online. I’ve restrained myself from ‘browsing’: I go online for a purpose, usually work, and close the laptop after I’ve accomplished that purpose. And I’ve refined my communications protocols, i.e., who can reach me and how I reach out.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve unsubscribed from mailing lists, curtailed the amount of time I spend watching the news (NY Times, WaPo, and The Guardian are primary sources), and generally stepped back from texts and WhatsApp.

The phone is turned on at 10 a.m. and is turned off at 9 p.m. I look at my phone no more than 6 times a day. I don’t look at it or respond to messages during meals. If friends want to spend time with me, they can email and we’ll set a time to talk, either on the phone or in person. Otherwise, color me fairly unavailable. This has increased my productivity, I believe (the workload lately has been unbelievable, anyway.) It has also forced others to sit up and pay attention: I’m not always around.

I’d be interested to hear how you’ve put boundaries up on the digital intrusion.

Also, what advertising do you respond to, if any?

And, if you were in my position, how would you reach out to readers?


About Byron Tully (right)

Grandson of a newspaper publisher and son of an oil industry executive, Byron Tully is an author who also writes for the entertainment industry. His nonfiction debut, "The Old Money Book," was published in April of 2013 to excellent reviews and enjoys consistently strong sales worldwide. His other works include "The Old Money Guide To Marriage", "Old Money, New Woman: How To Manage Your Money and Your Life", and "Old Money Style - The Gentleman's Edition".

Byron regularly contributes to its blog, www.theoldmoneybook.com, which has been visited by over 1 million readers since 2014.

In February of 2020, "Old Money Style - The Gentleman's Edition" was published by Acorn Street Press. This fourth book in the Old Money series reveals the fundamentals of dressing well in a classic and timeless style. In November of 2020, Byron published a 2nd Edition of "The Old Money Book", which expands on his original classic. This 2nd Edition includes vital information and insights for readers as they navigate a very different, post-pandemic world.

Byron speaks frequently about the culture and values of Old Money. He has been interviewed by KABC New York's Financial Quarterback Show, The Huffington Post, and The Simple Dollar, among others.

He lives in Paris and is happily married to an Old Money Gal from Boston.

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