Will you make it to the end of this article? The statistics say: probably not.
Our lust for content in the digital age has led many to believe, and some outright claim, that our attention spans are declining. In fact, at just 8 seconds, our attention spans are less than that of a goldfish, according to articles in publications such as Time, The Guardian, and The New York Times.
We’ll admit to using such statements at Fifty Five and Five when talking about the importance of keeping your audience engaged in your content. The link for which I’ll leave here, in case you’re already tempted to navigate off this page.
Wait, what were we talking about? Ah yes, attention spans.
Contrary to popular belief, this article from the BBC claims that our attention spans aren’t actually shrinking. Rather, “how much attention we apply to a task will vary depending on what the task demand is” says psychology lecturer Dr Gemma Briggs.
So, our attention is not harder to arrest, but relies on factors like relevancy and engagement.
This is good news for content marketers, who no doubt feel the pressure of writing the perfect opening paragraph. Know that, by addressing and engaging with your audience through your writing, you needn’t worry about losing their attention one, five, or twenty sentences into your post.
We’re going to explore how to do that in this post.
So, how can you grab the attention of your target audience?
It’s naïve to think that it’s not harder than ever to secure customers in the modern marketing world. There is so much choice these days, all at the literal fingertips of customers, that it may seem at times your audience does in fact have the attention span of goldfish.
Because you’re likely getting bored, here’s a visual representation of how quickly a potential new customer can lose interest in your content.
But if attention is task-dependent, you need to ensure that whatever your audience is reading is relevant to their task at hand. It might be the answer to a question they have, or the solution to a problem they’ve encountered. Keep your content relevant, and you can maintain your audience’s attention.
When you’re going through the content creation process—coming up with ideas, writing blogs and sharing them on your social channels—ask yourself what the interests of your audience are, and if your content will speak to them.
Creating content that appeals to your audience
If you want to get into the minds of your audience, a good place to start is by looking at how you consume content. Look through your recent Google searches (we won’t judge you); what are some of the phrases you’ve typed in? They probably fall into one of these categories:
• Pain Points: how to solve a problem
• Best practice: tips, tricks and advice
• “What is…?”: question-and-answer
• User-specific: information specific to you. Things like “supermarkets near me” or “CRM software for beginners”
These are the same search terms your target audience are using, but relevant to your company’s product, service, or area of expertise. If you can identify these areas and start creating relevant content around them, you’re going to be able to really lock down the attention of your readers.
Value propositions are a great way to identify these areas with the help of the wider business. In saturated technology markets, differentiation is everything. And clarity is key to making sure you can verbalise that differentiation.
Value propositions help you find your unique selling points and express it effectively to your audience.
Likewise, creating audience personas provides representations of your ideal customer—based on market research and real data about your existing customers—to adhere your content towards.
Then comes getting those articles to the top of Google search rankings, but that’s another story.
Now, where did I leave that conclusion?
Ah yes, here it is: not only are there false claims that our attention spans are decreasing, but goldfish are a false scapegoat for ‘bad’ attention spans (and memory spans, for that matter).
Goldfish can recall an event up to 12 days prior, and have become a model system for studying the process of learning and memory formation—not bad for an animal with the memory of a goldfish.
And marketers will do well to remember that if your content can genuinely interest the reader, you’re much better placed to arrest and maintain their attention.
Doing more to understand your audience—addressing their market concerns, technological or business needs, and other factors—will go a long way to getting more people to read your content and stay on your website.
You can expect this to have a positive impact on your site traffic, and will hopefully deliver you more leads over time.