I am a podcast fanatic.
It's actually completely changed my life. Where I was once what I would consider a "road-rager" now when I find myself with an hour commute, I eagerly scroll through my phone to find something to listen to.
One of my favorite podcast series is the TED Radio Hour where they bring in several experts on one topic, interview them, and then share a portion of their TED Talk.
And it was as I was sitting in gridlock traffic when I heard Zeynep Tufekci talk about something that should be on your radar as a business owner.
It was ironic that I happened to be driving as I was listening to it because the introduction was about the onslaught of media - including radio, billboards, and my ever-present phone that was sitting next to me.
This episode was talking about me.
"Some estimates show that most Americans are exposed to between 4,000 and 10,000 ads every day," said the host, Guy Raz. "And all those ads are competing for one thing: your attention."
But it was the next sentence from Zeynep Tufekci that really hit home for me: "Everyone has 24-hours in a day," she said. "The time you have that's free (from work, sleep, etc.) is one of the most important things you have."
Damn. She's right.
We're More Alike Than You Think
I've heard the phrase "time is a resource" before, but I never really thought of it as a commodity in this way - and something that puts us all on a level playing field. Everyone from the janitor at the local high school to a professional basketball player has one thing in common.
We all have 24-hours in a day.
The fact that marketers are trying to get my attention, trying to get me to use up that resource on what they're selling made me feel all-powerful as a consumer.
And scared shitless as a business owner.
"Your attention is being battled over," said Zeynep Tufekci. "And it's being packaged and sold."
Okay, now that phrase made me feel a little violated as a consumer. And a little shady as a marketing consultant.
But it's true. All you have to do is look at what a time-suck digital media is. One minute I'm looking at the adorable video my friend posted in her Facebook feed of a dog riding on a Roomba and the next thing I know my newsfeed is filled with ads for organic dog food that's nicer than what I feed my kids.
In this particular podcast, they went on to explain that these sort of digital algorithms can actually eventually lead to extremism. But what I want to get back to is that most precious commodity.
Is It Impossible?
How can I, as a small business owner, compete with the constant noise of digital media? How can I keep my audience from turning me off? How can I find a place that hasn't been taken yet?
I can only recommend what I've done myself from the ground up. Yes, those are my analytics from the Widow Chick page on Facebook. It wasn't magic - I created a space that was needed.
And here's how I did it:
1. Create something that makes the audience feel.
Whether they laugh, cry, nod, or curse my content has to evoke some sort of emotion.
2. Shock them all by being real.
When I started writing about losing my husband, I didn't hold anything back. I was worried that no one would understand when I found humor in sad situations or that they might judge me. But you know what? They just understood. And they thanked me for saying what they had been afraid to say.
3. Make it worth their time.
I go back to what I tell all of my clients. Stop marketing your business. If you create content that provides a service, then you'll feel less like a smarmy salesperson because you have their true interests at heart. Stop looking at every engagement as a possible sale and treat it as though you're helping a friend who needs you. That way, you won't feel bad about taking up their most precious commodity.