The human attention span is evolving and that has important implications for marketers. What type of marketing content gets and holds people’s attention—and how can you create it? Here’s what you need to know.
Attention spans are evolving
While there’s lots of lamentation about how our attention spans are being destroyed by the internet, a recent study by Prezi suggests attention spans aren’t shrinking—they’re just evolving.
Surprisingly, six in 10 respondents in the survey of more than 2,000 professionals say their ability to maintain focus has actually improved in the past year and they’re better able to give content their undivided attention. Millennials are actually more likely than Gen X or boomers to say that the right content can hold their attention for a long time.
There’s a catch, though: Not every piece of content gets that undivided attention. In fact, 49% of respondents say they’ve become more selective about what they give their attention to in the past year. With so much stimuli to choose from, it’s harder for your business’s marketing message to get through.
How to get your marketing message across
Marketing content that gets attention has some things in common. First, it tells a story. Second, it’s personal. Third, it’s visually stimulating. Here’s a closer look at how to incorporate those factors in your marketing.
Tell a story
Telling a story with your marketing might sound tough. But really, a story just requires three basic elements:
- A setup or situation that piques interest
- A challenge or conflict that arouses curiosity
- A resolution that brings satisfaction (and in the case of your marketing, gets prospects to buy/call/visit your website).
What’s a common situation that your target customers find themselves in? For instance, maybe they have trouble making a healthy dinner for their families every night, they struggle to lose weight and stay in shape, or they can’t get their lawns as green as they want them to be. Starting your story with a setup that your target customers will relate to will get their attention.
The challenge or conflict
What’s standing in the way of the customer getting what they want? Maybe they want to lose weight and exercise more, but they have a long commute and no time for the gym. Or they’re too tired at the end of a long work day to cook healthy meals. Perhaps they don’t want to spend hours on the weekend seeding and watering the lawn to get it green.
What does your business do for your customers? How does it help them overcome the challenge or conflict? For example, your home fitness equipment eliminates the drive to the gym. Your pre-prepared cooking kits let even busy working parents cook healthy meals. Your lawn-care service can handle all the work involved in getting that green lawn.
How to tell your story
Tell your story in the way that your target customers want to hear it. That might be a live video, a social media post with a photo, a brochure, an animated video with cartoon characters…it all depends on your target customers. You’ll need to do some research to see what type of content they like most. You can also track the results of your content marketing to see what gets the most interaction and engagement.
How not to tell your story
What makes people disengage?
- No substance: More than half of respondents in the Prezi survey say a story that does not challenge them mentally or lacks substance will cause them to disengage.
- Too much information: Too much text (even if it’s formatted in bullet points) can cause overwhelm and make it hard to retain information.
- Too long: Keep in mind your audience might be reading or viewing your marketing message on a smartphone. Don’t make them scroll down to get the message.
- Too many words: Images are highly effective at retaining attention. Try putting your data in an infographic format or making a video instead.
- Make it authentic: Using real customers’ testimonials or user-generated content can strike a chord if your prospects can relate to the customers and their challenges.
Last but not least, don’t forget to tell the story of your business. Use your website’s About Us page, your social media feeds, and your marketing materials in general to remind customers what your business is all about. Humanizing your business will make you more memorable and help you keep prospects’ attention.