As attention spans shorten and people become more selective with the content they read, listen to or watch, it’s important the marketers understand consumers habits like these to then be able to target them later on down the road. Nadjya Ghausi, vice president of marketing at Prezi, explores how marketers can use visuals, storytelling and collaboration to break through the personal ‘content filter’.
Today, there are more people, more brands, and more content than at any other point in human history. From binge-worthy television series to addictive podcasts, people are consuming content in greater volumes, and through more diverse channels, than ever before. However, as the way content is created and shared has evolved, so too have the attention spans of the people absorbing it.
Research shows that nearly half of the UK’s professionals are becoming more selective in the content they consume. For content creators that wish to remain competitive in the battle for attention, this poses a challenge. With consumers increasingly ‘filtering out’ unwanted content, creators must consider how they can engage an audience and make messages stick.
Cutting through the noise
To understand how to engage an audience, brands and content creators first need to look at the world from the perspective of their audience. With a growing volume of content, people are splitting their focus to consume it all. More than a quarter say they have split their attention between two pieces of content, resulting in them having to watch, read, or listen to the content again. Likewise at work, attempting to multitask is causing almost one-third to lose track of what’s being discussed.
Rather than becoming another piece of content that only gets a fraction of an audience’s focus, creators need to rise above and create something that will be truly engaging. As such, brands and content creators in the UK should consider three essential aspects that will help them stand out from the crowd: story, visuals, and conversation.
Why narrative matters
Stories are intrinsically linked to human culture. They have been a key part of communication for millennia, a way of passing on and sharing knowledge through generations. A tool used before we had the printing press, and long before we had digital storage to record information. That legacy persists, and today, 85% of people in the UK say a strong narrative is key to keeping an audience engaged.
A simple method for creators to use when creating narratives is to think about where they wish to take their audience. What’s the ultimate position they would like an audience to take? Once that goal is determined, presenters should craft a story that takes the audience on a journey to get to that point.
Where and how to use visuals
Again, looking back thousands of years, visuals were tied closely to communication, and language, more broadly. Cave paintings are thought by some to be the early beginnings of graphic-based communication, and there’s a reason the visual appearance of early languages – such as hieroglyphics – are similar to the subjects they signify. Sometimes it’s better to show, rather than tell.
While the average cave painting might not drive engagement from a modern audience, today imagery remains important. Animated visuals in particular are recommended by nearly three quarters of presenters to drive engagement. Data visualisation, well-made charts, infographics, and diagrams are another tool that can provide the perfect shorthand for raw numbers that might otherwise overload audiences.
Asking the audience
Finally, with so much content being created and absorbed through one-way digital channels, it can be easy to forget one of the best ways to drive engagement: conversation. Interaction and conversations can drive engagement and emotional investment from an audience. In terms of a presentation, for example, this can mean opening by asking the audience where they would like to start and then moving on from there. It instantly puts the audience in control, raising their stakes and allowing them to steer the direction of the content toward their interests. However, digital channels are increasingly taking this approach too, with interactive directional elements being built into longer form content, and even videos.
We live in a time where every millisecond long ‘impression’ and interaction is registered as an engagement. And while that approach may suit some, it doesn’t do justice to the real ways in which attention spans are evolving and people are engaging with content. By integrating storytelling, dynamic visuals, and conversational presenting into their content creation processes, brands can capitalise on people’s evolving attention spans. The outcomes will be massively important – amplified engagement, increased brand loyalty and trust, and finally, a significantly improved impact on the effectiveness and growth of their business.
By Nadjya Ghausi
Vice president of marketing