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Ask An Entrepreneur: How To Sell To People Online With Short Attention Spans

By Jorie Goins With so much being thrown at Internet users each day, how can you catch their eyes and keep the interest of those with short attention spans? We asked entrepreneur Richard Rabbat, the founder of Gfycat.

The world’s largest user-generated GIF platform is a large pair of shoes to fill, but Gfycat wears them proudly. Helmed by founder and CEO Richard Rabbat, 44, Gfycat has been recognized by AdAge as a “Startup to Watch” and amassed more than 75 million monthly users according to CBC News. This has all happened in the two short years since the company was founded in 2015.

For his part, Rabbat has amassed a wealth of experience on marketing and selling products in the digital world from his work with companies like Google, Fujitsu, Tango and Zynga. Rabbat attributes Gfycat’s whirlwind success to self awareness and knowing the customer. “We are first and foremost a platform for creators,” Rabbat said.

Rabbat has also learned to embrace risk, moving from large Fortune 500 companies to a smaller, startup model in an effort to encourage experimentation and innovation. “I felt a startup environment is more conducive to experimentation because failure is actually celebrated in startups so all of us can take more risks and challenge the status quo in the consumer technology space with a truly disruptive technology,” Rabbat said. “Leading and growing a team that’s trying to do something big is challenging but incredibly rewarding.”

Below, Rabbat shares his tips for online marketing to people with short attention spans.

  • Learn from Consumers. “I’m first and foremost a product head,” Rabbat said. Rabbat has learned to lean into the inclinations of his customers to find ways to maximize the products he sells and markets. “I get excited about the consumer space because of how challenging it is. People’s tastes are ever changing and the product that people like today is different than the one they will like tomorrow,” Rabbat said.
  • Embrace the digital movement. Rabbat and the team at Gfycat stay relevant by continuing to leverage the world’s shift towards easily digestible, online and digital content. “I think it’s precisely this large-scale move into digital that makes us relevant,” Rabbat said. “Most companies have started using short-form content to tell their stories, and those who haven’t are losing eyeballs to beautiful high-quality content.”
  • Keep. It. Short. At Gfycat, according to Rabbat, brevity is key to the company’s continued growth. Rabbat also wishes to create content that consumers can enjoy wherever they are. “Most consumers will only watch the first five seconds of a video before scrolling away, and they won’t turn their sound on. Keep your content pithy and consumers just might love it,” he said.
  • Just go for it! In Rabbat’s opinion, no one should feel barred from entering the tech industry. “Tech is a big and dynamic industry and there is room for so many different skill sets. It is only with competition that we truly challenge ourselves to be better, create better product, be more empathetic to our users and make new markets,” Rabbat said.
  • Word of mouth is your friend. “Our best marketing comes from word-of-mouth with people telling others to use Gfycat. It’s incredibly rewarding to hear from our users ‘Oh, you work for Gfycat! I love what you guys are doing and tell all of my friends to use you,” Rabbat said. “People’s tastes have changed from being excited about a YouTube video at home at night to needing to consume content while waiting in line at Starbucks. We’re using our success with consumers to help traditional brands successfully market themselves to the smartphone generation.”
  • Have a plan for failure. As most entrepreneurs know, failure is inevitable. But Rabbat says being prepared for these failures can make them impermanent. “Define what ceiling of time and money you’re willing to put into the venture and what you’ll do if things don’t work out,” Rabbat said. “Then work hard towards your goal, knowing that you’ve planned for every contingency.”

About the author

Jorie Goins

Jorie is a writer based out of Chicago, Ill. A journalist by day and dancer by night, Jorie is also the founder and blogger-in-chief of DanceTopia, which she hopes will serve as a digital dance hub where knowledge and passion collide. When she isn't writing or taking dance classes Jorie can be found reading, binge watching documentaries on Youtube ("Behind the Music" and "E! True Hollywood Story" are among her favorites), or trying out a new recipe from Pinterest.

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