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Our advisors get together with some like-minded financial planners in our region periodically to discuss trends and other insights in the hopes of improving our operations and enhancing our clients’ experiences.  At our most recent gathering, we had an interesting presentation from Christian Newton of Dimensional Fund Advisors on the near term direction of social media and web marketing.  He used a term I hadn’t heard before, referring to our present world as “The Attention Economy”.  I did some research on the term and found the concept most attributable to a book of the same name by Thomas Davenport and John Beck.

We live in an age of ever increasing information available from an ever growing number of channels.  I’ve often seen this as a negative, potentially damaging phenomenon.  This comes as a result of our slowly rising stress levels as we are left with the same 24 hours per day to deal with this constant, often negatively focused stream.

I also clearly understand that there are many benefits.  Our access to information has endless uses and helps make all of our lives much more efficient.  Newton’s presentation around what this is doing to the markets and our economy overall went a step further and helped me see even more of a silver lining.

Competition for our attention is at an all time high.  Markets have long been described as conversations between buyers and sellers.  Newton pointed out that when mass advertising was introduced in the mid-1800s, the buyer and seller were put on increasingly uneven footing.  The seller (Wall Street firms, product creators, etc.) had the means to control communication to the masses about their products using relatively few channels.

Today, social media other forms of rapid communication are leveling the playing field.  Some believe we are witnessing the beginning of the end to mass marketing as we know it.  If harmful information is being pushed to consumers, social media acts as an almost immediate filter, exposing the damaging information to the appropriate audience much faster than ever before.  In the past, countless consumers would be harmed before enough of a fuss was made to let the rest of the world know about any given wrongdoing.  Now, a Google search or quick check of a Twitter feed can save someone from being duped or making a poor decision before acting.

The negatives remain and we have to be more vigilant than ever in the information we take at face value, but despite what many thought not all that long ago, the worldwide web and the social networks that have developed from it are here to stay.  The more we are aware of how the battle for our attention is changing our economy, our markets and the way we receive information, the better we will be equipped to filter that information and make consistently smarter decisions.

We continue to look for ways to block out the unimportant and potentially harmful information for those we serve.  By filtering the noise and keeping a firm eye on that which materially impacts long term goals, we are able to maintain proper focus in the attention economy.

Have a great week!