Imagine you’re an emerging influencer. You started on Instagram and have a good following on YouTube, but your new TikTok account is exploding—amassing hundreds of thousands of followers in just a few weeks.
Things are finally happening after years of effort, and now you’re thinking about quitting that day job to become a full-time creator.
But insta-fame is overwhelming. You’re inundated with questions from fans and propositions from strangers pitching services you’re not sure you need.
You get calls from unknown numbers, so you let them go to voicemail.
Because who has time for a robocall pitch that’s probably a scam anyway? You’ve got Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube comments to attend to. You’ve got videos, pics, and posts to craft, DMs to answer, collaborators to interact with, brands to pitch, merch to design, friends to text, family to actually talk to and yes, you still have that pesky job to go to.
Attention is a finite resource.
Welcome to the attention economy, where the most valuable tradeable asset is your mental focus. Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, and more—all compete for your attention so that they can monetize it with ads.
As The Social Dilemma illustrates, these companies have followed the How to Build Habit-Forming Products playbook using the secrets of behavioral science to monopolize and monetize your precious attention in a world of infinite information.
By design, social media platforms are as addictive as slot machines.
Influencers rising to prominence on social media quickly learned that whoever garnered the most attention attracted sponsors willing to pay to access their audiences. The bigger the audience, the bigger the paychecks, requiring more attention to grow.
This isn’t surprising, since even babies know that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, AKA food, milk, love, and attention, which means survival. Giving and getting attention are basic human needs.
Using these platforms, anyone can attract attention as an influencer, and many people have. According to data from Tensor Social, there are more than 127 million Instagram, TikTok and YouTube accounts with over 1,000 followers, 83% of those in the 1K-500K follower range.
Millions of influencers are creating content contributing to what the World Economic Forum estimates will be 463 exabytes of data daily by 2025, the equivalent of 212,765,957 DVDs per day!
Yet the average American has only five leisure hours a day to spare.
The world is awash in content, but the supply of human attention hasn’t kept pace. Google notes there’s no evidence that individual human attention capacity is growing. Nor has the population grown as fast as the number of brands has.
Time is money, make it count.
If attention is scarce and the demand for it high, then maybe it’s time to flip the script. What if that phone call from an unknown number came with a price tag?
Imagine you’re that influencer finishing up your latest TikTok post. You get a random call, and on the screen it says, Mason Storm, Acme Talent has paid $20 for 15 minutes of your time. Would you take the call? What if you ignored it, but he came back offering $30 or more?
Your attention is your asset, and you alone choose where to focus it.
Do you scroll through Facebook, bombarded by ads along the way? Do you finish posting your TikTok video? Or do you take the $20 call because you’ve been getting messages from talent managers, but at least this guy is offering something tangible for your time, so why not talk to him?
Why would Mason Storm pay to talk to an emerging influencer?
Because in this scenario, he has several brand deals in mind and knows that if he signs you on now, he’ll earn 15-20% on future fees and can easily earn back his initial investment.
Meanwhile, Mason’s competitors continue to message you via outreach, but you’re off the market.
What if you’re a fan of an influencer who teaches fitness?
You love her videos and always comment, but she does a move that feels awkward when you try it, so you want to ask her what you’re doing wrong on a video call. With a video call of course you can show her exactly what you’re doing. How do you cut through the noise to reach her?
She doesn’t know you, she gets hundreds of DMs a day, and even if you could find her phone number, would she answer and participate in a random video call?
Worldwide every day, people need to connect with other people they don’t personally know for specific reasons—to get advice from experts, to make a connection that advances a career, to seek encouragement, or to offer opportunities likely of interest to highly qualified prospects.
In a world of scarce attention amidst information overload, it makes sense to buy access offering money in exchange for high-value connections. Especially now, in the age of Covid, where people are stuck at home anyway and video calls have become the norm.
Will people pay for time?
People already do! The consulting industry is $130 billion strong, and individuals have been paying each other for time since money was invented.
At Wildeye, we’re taking it further, creating a shortcut to help people cut to the front of the line, where anyone can connect to anyone, for the right price—starting with influencers on the rise.
We recently conducted a product research study and found that people are willing to spend money for the right connection. Younger buyers were more willing to spend lower amounts for the thrill of speaking to somebody famous, while older buyers were more skeptical but willing to spend higher amounts to get exactly what they needed.
For those selling their expertise, the money was important, but they also liked the idea of sharing knowledge, helping others, and increasing engagement with their audiences.
And for those in particularly high demand, we envision auctions for the limited time they make available to the public, letting the market decide the final price.
AI will determine your price.
Your browsing history, clicks, likes, comments, and shares—everything you do online is already tracked for the purpose of presenting you with ads that lead to purchase.
Programmatic ad networks powered by artificial intelligence now bring highly targeted ads down to small niche publishers, while influencer sponsorships move down to the nano-level.
Ad spend is shifting toward influencers because we tend to trust their recommendations more than we do generic ads on a social media network.
This trend will probably continue as we see the rapidly growing $10 billion influencer marketing industry expand in the coming years.
What’s the next step?
We see a future with more intelligent AI following your actions online, making better assumptions about your intentions, bringing better, more highly-targeted offers to you, and in certain use cases, paying you to watch a video, fill out a form or take a phone call.
The evolution of the attention economy is the democratization of advertising.
Yes, you will still be served ads, and yes, influencers will still ply you with recommendations, but in certain high-probability situations, advertisers may choose to cut out the middleman and pay you directly for your attention.
This is the segue to the connection economy.
Connection is where the magic happens.
Attention is hollow, fleeting. It feels good for a moment but may or may not lead to a sale. Asynchronous likes and comments only go so far.
People crave meaningful human connection via real conversations that lead to understanding. This is also where agreements, inspiration, and transactions live.
If attention is scarce, then true connection is even more scarce—especially now in our ADD swipe culture of gamified, FOMO-driven, perpetual distraction.
Connection is more likely to lead to transactions, which is why the robo callers keep calling. They know if they get through, some number of people will buy whatever they’re selling.
That’s the power of connection, requiring an investment of both time and money.
But at some point, it’s all too much. You can’t give attention to everything that crosses your path, and you can’t connect with everyone who wants to connect with you.
Of course, you reserve free time for family and friends, but for all those people you don’t know who want to pick your brain or pitch their product, why not put a price on your time?
This law of reciprocity kicks in when someone offers you money for something, and you accept. They’ve given something to you, so you feel compelled to return value in return, even if that’s just listening to what they have to say with an open mind in the allotted time.
This is the vision we’re bringing to life.
We’re creating a marketplace to serve 3.8 billion social media users worldwide (potential buyers) and 127 million influencers (potential sellers).
Your phone rings. Lexi Smythe wants to discuss your career path, offering you $30 for 15 minutes. Would you take the call?