The average person now consumes twelve hours of media, checks their phone close to 110 times and sees an estimated 5,000 marketing messages each day. When most of us also regularly put in 8+ hours on the job, it’s no wonder our collective attention span is more taxed than ever.

Data overwhelmingly confirms it too. According to MailChimp 80-85% of marketing emails are never opened, and even in digital video — one of the most promising frontiers for marketers — 56% of viewers regularly skip pre-roll and vocally prefer ads that are fifteen seconds or less. The National Center for Biotechnology Information at the U.S. National Library of Medicine finds average human attention span decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013, no doubt influenced by the influx of real-time content streams available to us 24/7/365 on social at a moments’ notice.

As a marketer or advertiser, all this is also a reality check and constant reminder about how precious attention has become. If you’re thinking about what this means for your marketing efforts, or you’re producing a lot of quality content but struggling to get noticed, here are four principles you can apply to win anyone’s attention.

1. Benchmark your work against the real attention winners

Marketers commonly think of share of voice as the percentage a message is heard or talked about compared to other advertisers, particularly competitors. But no media consumer thinks this way. At almost any point in the day people can check a different device, or open a different app or browser tab. After all, the human attention span is finite, singular and media agnostic. Here at Percolate our blog isn’t competing with the blogs of other software companies as much as it’s competing with publishers like BuzzFeed and AdAge, trending content on YouTube and media companies stocked with audience-building professionals. Sure you can still interrupt content consumers in all those places, but those interruptions are easier and easier to tune out. The modern marketer is an audience-builder, and that takes objectively good content relative to the publishers and media companies your customers pay attention to. Set your standards high and keep re-evaluating them.

2. Target people, not populations

Facebook and LinkedIn now offer paid targeting advanced enough that you can effectively personalize your content to the people who see it, rather than cutting broad swaths across populations. When you’re interesting, timely and visually compelling that’s a lot closer to a recommendation than an interruption, and it delivers superior campaign ROI.

On the retargeting side, technology leaders like AdRoll (who we’re co-presenting an awesome webinar with on October 21) allow an e-commerce brand to target creative at the product page visitor level, depending on whether a customer browsed for sweaters or a new pair of jeans. The key here is pairing the discipline to verticalize and personalize content with empathy for the customer journey and a system that lets your media team efficiently create, tag and manage all your ad groups and creative.

3. Make your content “snackable”

There’s no question short-form is here to stay, and mobile is a big part of it. On Twitter, image posts consistently generate 500% higher engagement than text-only tweets, and this extends well beyond the major social hubs. On Medium, essays that are 3 minute reads get significantly more views, and the site very deliberately displays a time-to-read estimate below each post excerpt to help readers understand the attention investment required for a piece of content.

Average Blog Post Views Per Minute from Medium

Even more interestingly, essay attention and engagement on Medium starts to drop off for anything longer than a seven minute read, then the tune-out rate steepens beyond the ten minute mark.

Best Versus Average Medium Blog Post Length

A wealth of content options and the shift to shorter mobile browsing sessions means brand experiences need to be succinct, punchy and eye-catching, right off the bat. Write aspirational headlines, keep copy short, pique curiosity early and make sure your content is accompanied by a compelling, relevant image or video. “We’ve seen the case where a headline made the difference between 1,000 views and 1 million views,” notes Upworthy co-founder Peter Koechley.

Top Words and Phrases in Highly-Shared Articles from BuzzFeed, ViralNova, UpWorthy and Wimp

Top Words in Viral Headlines from BuzzFeed, ViralNova, UpWorthy and Wimp

See the complete list here.

The key, ultimately, is crafting irresistible content packaging that’s consistent with the standards you set for your brand.

4. The phone home screen is the new front page of Google search

Five years ago, people discovered digital content three ways: they got search results from Google, someone emailed it to them, or they saw it on Facebook for desktop. Today, mobile has intersected all three channels — browser-based search is bypassed by content access via native apps, mobile push notifications short-cut email discovery and Facebook has over a billion native mobile users across its core app, Pages, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. If your average typical customer checks their phone more than 100 times daily and you’re on the home screen, that’s 36,500+ organic icon impressions a year, completely effort free. Get to the home screen (or an app on the home screen) — it’s the true successor to search engine marketing.

Above all, keep experimenting, don’t settle and keep thinking big. Your customers will notice.

Want to discuss other hacks and best practices for getting more attention for your marketing? More than happy to talk on Twitter.

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