Business Advice

How to capture short attention spans

- May 25, 2017 2 MIN READ

In recent years, studies have shown that our ability as humans to multi-task has improved, however, the cost of this advantage is that our attention spans have decreased. If you work in marketing or content creation, this is something that you need to be aware of.

How can you create content that still adds high value and engages hyper-distracted audiences?

A video is worth a million words?
You’ve probably heard the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, if that is the case, then a video is probably worth a million. It combines the visual elements of photos, with animation, speech and the ability to convey a huge amount of information in a short timespan. Sure, creating video content is more time-consuming than text and image-based posts, but it has the potential to engage audiences in a way that both written content and photos cannot.

Make the first eight seconds count
Some advertisers assume that if people’s attention spans are dropping, then all content needs to be shorter. Not so. In fact, studies suggest that consumers want high-quality, long-form content too. A study by Orbit Media Studios found that the average blog post length increased from 887 words in 2015 to 1054 words in 2016.

What it does mean, however, is that you need to capture the interest of a reader in the first eight seconds otherwise they will bounce away. So whether you are creating video or text-based content, the first few seconds need to grab your audience.


  • Using headers, bolded text, numbered lists, bullet points, quotes and infographics with statistics to break up your text and structure your post in a user-friendly manner
  • Including a takeaway or summary section – if people are short on time this lets them scroll to the end to get your nuggets of wisdom
  • Ensuring that it displays on mobile as seamlessly as it does on a PC screen
  • Using humour. You can still get your points across in a playful manner.

Do something unique
One of the best strategies to capture an audience’s attention is to do something unpredictable. What this means for you and your business will depend on your industry and your brand identity. Some companies have experimented with things like parallax scrolling or musical headers (the latter is a great idea if you are a music retailer or producer). Photographers could share photo essays (i.e. ten photos grouped around a one-word theme with no text and invite users to share their thoughts).

Whatever you experiment with, remember to track the results of your efforts with analytics. Analyse the typical likes, shares and conversions of your normal content before changing things up, then compare the results to each new type of content you introduce.

Capturing the attention of time-pressed users can, in some instances, be as simple as rethinking your keywords. Understanding your audience better and knowing which keywords ‘hook’ them in, is often a neglected element of content marketing. Every audience has a particular language that they identify with. Use the right words and the right tone and your content may be instantly better received overnight.

Related articles:
1. Why multitasking wastes time
2. 11 tools for amazing content creation
3. Fun ways to repurpose old content and drive new traffic

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