How to Build Empathy and Connection Among Today’s Distracted Audiences
Consumers have shorter attention spans than ever. Here are three ways to deliver content that will grab — and keep — their attention.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
When we write and share content, no matter what type of content that is, what we're really trying to do is make a connection. We're looking for someone who shares a genuine interest, who has similar goals to our own, who wants to learn more about us.
But achieving meaningful interactions may be harder now than ever before. In his book, The Shallows, Nicolas Carr explains that the more distracted you are, the less capable you are of feeling deep emotions like empathy. And we all know that, when we're on the internet, we're downright distracted. In fact, if we receive more than four stimuli at one time -- and stimuli can include everything from photos to ads to sidebars -- our short-term memories can take a serious hit. All this goes to show that, when we're online, a lot of us may be interacting, but we're not really engaging.
So how do you connect on a personal, emotional level with your target audience in the face of all these obstacles? Here are three essential strategies.
Embrace Visual Storytelling
We hear a lot about shortening attention spans, and this has certainly proven to be a huge obstacle for content marketers everywhere. But at the same time, consumers are willing to spend hours binge-watching Stranger Things and Game of Thrones. So what gives?
The big differentiator here has to do with the power of storytelling. No matter how much our technology or our ways of interacting with the world change, humans seem to be naturally drawn to great narratives. When we wake up in the morning we read the stories of what's going on in the world on our favorite news app. At work and at happy hour, we can't stop sharing the stories of our own lives and the lives of others, only to go home, where we'll watch or read more stories until we go to bed and maybe dream in stories. I think you get my point.
Paired with the powerful narrative driving some of our favorite TV shows and movies today are incredible visuals. The special effects of Westworld and the Marvel movies, the gorgeous landscapes in Game of Thrones -- they capture our attention, make us stop in our tracks.
Businesses who are trying to reach out to potential customers can embrace visual storytelling too. The first step is adopting visual content as our primary mode of communication. This means thinking about what mediums and design styles appeal most to our target audience before writing a word of copy -- an approach I call the Visual-First Method. This way, your text will be optimized to enhance and complement your visuals, not the other way around.
Next, you'll need to think about what the story of your brand or product is. Sometimes we forget to ask ourselves this, but there's always a story. Even if this story is specific to a particular campaign, even if it will only appeal to one of your target audiences, you need to find that narrative and let it drive your content from the very start.
Embracing visual storytelling in your content marketing will help your audiences connect with you on a personal and emotional level.
Today's audiences, especially Generation Z, crave authenticity. What's more, they're getting better and better at recognizing and rejecting inauthentic content.
This is probably why seven in 10 Gen-Zers prefer marketing that features YouTube influencers over celebrities. They feel that, through this type of content, they're connecting with real people who have really tried out this product, service, or company and can recommend it from experience.
It's not just Generation Z that likes authenticity. Remember the Domino's Pizza rebrand in 2010? In a daring move, the company actually announced that its pizza was awful. In paid advertisements. Then they promised to do better.
Domino's was rewarded in a huge way for this honesty. Its stock price soared from $10 at the start of 2010 to around $263 as of last week. Authenticity pays, because it builds real and lasting trust with your customers.
Be Socially Conscious
Generation Z is more likely than anyone before them to interact with brands that display social consciousness and a willingness to embrace activism. Why should you care about Generation Z? One in four Americans are a part of this group, so it's worthwhile to sit up and listen.
Dove's Real Beauty campaign, which featured women of all shapes and sizes rather than just stick-thin models, drew a wave of positive attention. Jewelry company Jared launched a commercial in 2018 that celebrates diversity. These campaigns communicate that social responsibility is important to these brands, and customers today connect much more -- and are more loyal -- to companies like that.
Try these three strategies and you'll find that your content will start connecting with audiences on a whole new level.