Eight ways to get (and keep!) people’s attention
People today are drowning in information; advertising, news, and entertainment media follow us everywhere at all hours of the day (and night, if you don’t put your phone on silence). In a market where everyone is competing for eyeballs, how can you stand out? We listed eight ways:
- Start with why. Why should anyone actually listen to what you have to say? Often, people are so excited about the how (like a new product or program) they forget to explain why. A good why can be the difference between an opened email and the trash folder.
- Tell a story. When we’re wrapped up in a good story, distractions disappear. Sure, you won’t be able to rewrite Ben-Hur in the office newsletter—but a good tale with characters and conflict is more compelling than a simple statement.
- Remember the visual. People are stingy when it comes to spending their cognative energy. When moving through an email inbox or social feed, their brain forces them to make split-second decisions about what’s relevant. Help your content pass that test by using vivid colors or adding animated elements. Even just making a sentence bold will make people more likely to read it.
- Be funny. If your brand is going to provoke an emotional response, make sure it’s laughter and not tears. A good joke involves a clever insight and an unexpected twist—the first is a key to good marketing, and the second is what will make your brand stick in consumers’ minds.
- Take advantage of the curiosity gap. The “curiosity gap” is a psychological term for the gap between something someone knows and something they want to know. Websites like BuzzFeed have gripped users’ attention for years by providing just enough information—before tempting users with phrases like “The reason why will shock you!” Beware relying on this too much, however; people are starting to become skeptical of “clickbait.”
- Stop being a robot. It’s disheartening for a consumer to get a generic form letter in their inbox or see a social post written by a robot on their feed. Instead, let consumers know there’s a person on the other end—they’re more likely to interact with a human than with a cold, calculating machine.
- Provide closure or… don’t. The Zeigarnik effect (named for the Soviet psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik) teaches us that humans crave closure. Convincing a consumer to finish reading a post is as simple as putting a cliffhanger in the headline or making things seem… incomplete.
- Don’t write to impress. The next time you need to type up an email blast, push the thesaurus off your desk. One of the marks of good writing is clarity—if the person reading it can’t understand you, you’ve failed. If a customer needs to Google your technical jargon, they’re not going to bother listening.