Writers need to generate sticky content that grabs attention from the get-go. A Microsoft study found that the average human attention span is...oh look, a puppy! Post smartphone revolution humans hold their focus for 8 seconds. This is 1 second less than the average goldfish. (1)
So what separates attention-grabbing posts from forgettable posts? Here are 6 principles to generate content that sticks.
Find the CoreNot the apple core. The most important message you want your readers to understand after reading your article.
Readers want to know what's in it for them. How will your article benefit their life? Start with a catchy headline and then move on to your most important message. Show your audience exactly how your text will benefit their life with a short opening. People waste time because they want the perfect opening. Don't make people guess your one big idea. State the purpose of the article and move on.
Use Surprise!Break expectations. Start with a question and work up to the big reveal at the end of the post. For example, when a students walk into a science class what do they expect? Canned lectures on how the earth orbits the sun.
Try starting with a question. Why does the earth rotate around the sun? Why doesn’t the earth ever slip off it’s rotating access and float into oblivion? The mystery keeps readers hooked until the end when you reveal something they did not know. They become a part of the investigation instead of being an innocent bystander.
Try starting with a question. The mystery keeps readers hooked until the end when you reveal something they didn't know.
Build with ConcreteThe foolish man builds a castle with sand. The wise man uses concrete.
Why did the sand castle fail? Because the foundation was weak. This same analogy can be applied to blog posts. Abstract language makes you look smarter but you will lose your audience. This is the curse of knowledge. It’s like we are speaking an entirely different language. In contrast, we can make our ideas stick when we use concrete language and examples. Stay in tune with your audience by using real-world objects and examples to describe abstract ideas and principles.
Create CredibilityThe vast majority trust experts and celebrities. Most of us, sorry to say it, will never be famous. Some of us may be experts in our field. But all of us can find ways to create credibility.
If you’re not a rockstar or an expert scientist focus on finding the anti-celebrity. Think of the last commercial you watched on TV. Most likely they used real people in real situations to persuade you to buy something. Would you rather buy a product from a multi-billion dollar company or from your next door neighbor? Additionally, use contrasting statistics and past performance to build a credible story.
Utilize EmotionsStatistics can be dry. Humans are emotional creatures. We take action when we see and feel first hand. Chip & Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick, found that people are more likely to give aid to a single person rather than an entire impoverished nation. (2)
Why? Because a single personal example is more intimate than an entire nation of starving children. Statistics can force us to think analytically, while real people can drive emotions. Use emotions in your posts to capture attention and drive action.
Tell a StoryLet your personality shine by telling a story. Stories make abstract principles feel more real. I could say it’s important to serve others. Or I could share a story about how my family put together boxes of food and delivered them to homeless people every year. I could describe how grown men cried as we returned to our car. Stories often utilize emotions, concrete examples, and surprise.
Hope you enjoyed these 6 principles to make your next blog post pop. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Feel free to add any principles you use to keep readers’ attention in the comments below.
Click here to download a printable pdf version of these 6 tools.