Today, brands are constantly battling to get consumers to part with their data and their cash. However, whilst both are important, there is one thing that should be the focus of their efforts - consumer attention, according to Luca Massaro, managing director for sporting social media agency WePlay. This article is copyright 2015 The Best Customer Guide.

The digital boom and all the changes that have accompanied it may have shifted and displaced much of what marketers know, but one fundamental remains - before brands try to convince their audience that they are worth giving up their hard-earned cash and data to, they need to have their attention. Indeed, in today's social world, attention is the key to success. Without this, no matter how much a brand invests in understanding consumers, they will lose.

A lack of understanding about where the attention of their audience lies has led to many brands spending vast amounts of time and money on creative campaigns that haven't delivered the returns expected or needed. When a campaign goes wrong, critics are quick to point the finger at the creative as the reason for failure. This may be a factor but, increasingly marketers are realising that the reason for their failure is that the campaign didn't capture the attention of the audience they were looking to engage.

For many, failure to capture attention is down to a lack of understanding about which demographics flock to which channels. For example, whilst Facebook has long been shouting about itself as a great place to target the wealthy over 50s, there is still a common misconception that social media applications, such as Instagram or Snapchat, are only targeted at a younger generation. If you believe this, you're missing out on a massive opportunity; the tools work, you just need to know how to use them.

Size isn't everything
Facebook may be a powerful beast, but biggest doesn't mean best - far from it. In fact, you could argue that the only reason Facebook is still winning now is that they recognised the potential risk of audience overconsumption and created an algorithm to give people less content to consume. This algorithm not only ensured they would not lose the attention of their users, it meant that they could also go all-in with monetisation and be the advertising platform they wish to be.

With Facebook out of the mix, it is clear that Instagram is the most important social network right now and it has the mass-market attention to keep it there. With 100m consumers on it already, Snapchat isn't far behind either. Brands would be foolish to avoid either of them.

If you need further proof, think back to a few years ago when Twitter had all of our attention… Twitter changed the way in which we not only source news and see live events unfold, but also how we connect with each other. However, over time we out-followed ourselves and over-consumed, making it a cluttered and noisy environment. Whilst all this was happening, Instagram and Snapchat rose reasonably silently to offer a more visually stimulating, captivating and less cluttered experience.

Rules of engagement
An interacting audience isn't necessarily an engaged one, so brands still need to apply 'dating theory' to marketing to build relationships with consumers.

It isn't surprising that marketers are so obsessed with the audience's reaction to content given how much time they spend on it. However, despite the time investment, marketers still lose sight of two key things: whether they are delivering value, and whether they are distributing to the correct audience.

If the content doesn't offer value, marketers know they will struggle to engage consumers but they often seem to forget that if the content isn't distributed to where the target audience is then they will be even less successful.

"The solution is simple - brands and marketers need to make sure they are applying dating theory and fishing where the fish are. If you ensure you have a rod that works and a bucket full of tasty bait you can't fail to win," concluded Massaro.