3 tips for marketing to short attention spans

Is it possible to boost audience engagement on your content when you’re up against dwindling attention spans? Read these top tips to find out.

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Mobile devices have paved the way for a pervasively multitasking world. Between social media updates, live video, and constant streams of exciting digital content, there’s heaps of temptation to look at a screen while we’re supposed to be doing something else.

In fact, we’re so easily distracted these days, that the average person checks their phone more than 1,500 times a week (there are a lot of cute dogs to get through). It will come as no surprise then, that our attention spans have shrunk to around just 8 seconds – that’s less than a goldfish.

Holding concentration in the digital world is no easy feat. So, when it comes to marketing, how can you effectively capture the attention of your audience?  If you’re still paying attention, why not start by reading these three tips to help generate more clicks, shares, and most importantly, readers?

TL;DR: content needs to be skimmable, valuable, and authoritative to keep audiences engaged.

1. Communicate clearly

Those with short attention spans have very little time to digest the content you put in front of their eyes. 81% of people are skim-readers online, and through having a play around with formatting and layout, you can make it super easy for your audience to scan through your articles.

  • Adjust formatting – Use headers or numbered sections to break up large chunks of copy. If it’s particularly dense, use bold or underline to draw the eye to individual sections and maintain reader focus.
  • Point it out – Use bullet points or numbered lists to spotlight focal points that engage the reader (see what I did here?).
  • Provide summaries – Finish up with actionable takeaway points, or a couple of sentences that summarise what’s just been said, to maintain interest.
  • Create a style guide – Establishing a shared set of editorial guidelines or a style checklist will ensure that each and every piece of content is produced to the same high standards. It’s also handy to formulate a collaborative content calendar to keep everyone in the loop.
  • Include visuals – Whether it be photos, data visualisations, graphics, videos, or infographics, readers typically spend longer looking at visual content compared to the written word. Incorporate visuals into your content to grab audience attention and help them remember you.
Image via: giphy.com

To see how some brands have put this into sweet, skimmable action, check out this article.

2. Target your audience

We all know that content creation is at the heart of a successful inbound strategy. It’s an integral part of growing brand awareness, attracting site visitors, and generating leads. That said, there’s little point in just pushing it out there and hoping for the best; you’ll need to create quality content that’s useful to your audience, to attract engagements, and shares.

  • Carry out research – Before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), conduct detailed persona and industry research, to understand what topics will resonate best with your audience. A little keyword research will also go a long way when it comes to crafting captivating content.
  • Conduct a competitor analysis – Taking a little nosy at what else is going on in your industry will reveal a great deal of insight into the types of content your target audience finds irresistible across a variety of channels. This vital knowledge will help with the task of planning content themes, types, frequency, length, author, and promotion, etc.
  • Ask the audience – Hosting social media polls, live vote-ins, and surveys is a great way to find out about the content topics and types your followers are interested in so that you can craft your content accordingly, as demonstrated here by career advisors, Muse.

There’s so much content out there, that the only way yours will grab the attention of your dream audience is through keeping them in mind at all times.

Image via: doblu.com

3. Demonstrate authority in your industry

Thought leadership can be used as a handy tactic for generating content ideas that your audience can’t help but pay attention to. Line up a selection of organisations within your industry that you could potentially collaborate with in a way that is mutually beneficial, such as cross-promotion, guest posting, a social media takeover, or joint research.

It’s not difficult to include thought leadership into your content marketing strategy, a few simple steps will have you well on the way:

  • Guest blogging – Old, but gold, guest blogging can work wonders for generating the kind of noise about your brand that your target audience will be ready and waiting to tune in to. Alternatively, why not ask industry experts or other like-minded brands to contribute content for your blog or social channels?
  • Speak up – Jump on available speaking opportunities at conferences and events in your industry, and don’t forget to use our cheat sheet to get the most bang for your buck out of them.
  • Expert influence – host a live Q&A with an industry pro, or collab with high-profile influencers in your field to expand reach, grow your following, increase brand awareness, and more.

Thought leadership demonstrates that you know your stuff, and this will help reinforce that you’re a reputable and trustworthy source.

Image via: hellogiggles.com

TL;DR summary of all points

Content creation is showing no signs of slowing down, in fact, 70% of B2B marketers are planning to produce more content in 2017 compared to last year. While these creation numbers are on the up, engagement rates continue to slump, with more than half of all pageviews hitting less than a minute in length.

This may be attributed to a quantity over quality conundrum, or it could correspond to our ever-shrinking attention spans. The reader of today is likely skimming through your written content and picking out the stand-out bits, whilst simultaneously carrying out a tonne of other online (and offline) tasks.

As marketers, it’s important to factor the goldfish attention span into our strategies, and work out how we might defy it, without sacrificing the quality of our work.

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