A lot has been written about how humans now have shorter attention spans than — ooh! I just got an email! — a goldfish (who beats us at 9 seconds), and while that’s a funny party time factoid, it’s actually a serious issue for marketers trying to get consumers’ attention. With so much content competing for even just a few milliseconds of attention, how can you make yours stand out?

Start by Providing Value. No, I Mean Real Value

It’s easy to say that your content should be valuable to your reader, but what does that really mean? You start by understanding your audience. A quick look at Google Analytics isn’t going to suffice here. You need to do a deep dive into market research and simply listen to really glom onto what your audience cares about.

Eavesdrop on social media to find out what your audience is talking about. Send surveys to customers to get insightful feedback. Talk to them face-to-face. Research your demographics to understand them, including where they live, how old they are, and what their online habits are. And yes, pay attention to those analytics to see what of your past content has been a hit with your audience.

Mix Up the Format

Marketing with only blog posts is so 2000late. Yes, they have their purpose, but the best way to engage people in content marketing is to surprise them with different types of content. Create a livestream on Instagram or Facebook. Test out Facebook’s new Stories. Set up a slideshow. Whatever you do, just do it differently than the rest of your content, and stand out from what the competition is doing.

Also vary the length of content. Most people zone out after 10 seconds into a video, so maybe a 3-minute vid isn’t the way to go. Long form content is having its heyday, but don’t discount shorter posts for those who don’t have the patience to read 3,000 words (myself included).

Tell a Story

There’s a reason social media sites are latching onto the concept of “stories” with their “day in the life” features that allow users to share photos from 24 hours that disappear afterward. They illustrate someone’s life, and brands can take note on that. Rather than lecturing people about why they should do something, illustrate that point with a story. Talk about one of your customers and her struggle to find a solution for her chronic pain. Then show how your brand helped her solve her problem and get back to her life.

Yes, your brand can be a character in the story, but don’t always take the Knight in Shining Armor approach. Sometimes by stepping out of the story, you do a better job of making people want to be a part of what you’re doing.

Staying relevant and capturing your audience’s attention takes effort. You can’t assume what turned their heads yesterday will work again today. Constantly assess, measure, and tweak your content marketing strategy to continually matter to your audience.

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