By now, you’re probably familiar with the most overly used marketing stat of the year: a goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds; human attention spans have dwindled down to just eight seconds.

Hopefully, by now, you realize that this is fake news and has actually been debunked. However, the sentiment still holds true. People are distracted today, making marketers’ jobs that much harder. How do you capture and hold the attention of someone who is scrolling through their Facebook newsfeed while watching the latest TGIT shows on TV and carrying on a conversation with their roommate?

At a Gramercy Institute forum a couple of weeks ago, marketers and publishers from the financial industry came together to discuss this very topic: the age of engagement, and how to engage with customers and prospects. While most of the forum content was geared toward the financial services industry, these tips apply to marketers across all industries.

Below are four highlighted tips on content marketing that matter in the age of shrinking attention spans.

  1. Make it snackable. Even if the goldfish stat is false, you can’t argue that many people have short attention spans. This is the age of 30 tabs open on your browser, and people skimming content versus fully reading it before moving onto the next tab. So, consider making your content bitesize. Be concise with the message you want to get across.
  2. Hook them from the beginning. Flashback to ninth-grade English class and you might remember the storytelling arc, with the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. Well, I think we’ve established that nobody has time for that today. You cannot afford the slow build of a story to convey your messages, and instead you need to grab your audience’s attention right from the start and convey your message before they tune out.
  3. Be relevant. Recognize what your target audience has a need and desire for, and cater to that with your content. That is the trick to rising above the noise. When something is irrelevant to you, how often do you stop and pay more attention to it? Never. That’s the same for your readers. Micro-targeted content is the next evolution of marketing. This means understanding your audience to using that understanding to deliver content that is interesting to them in that moment so they’ll stop channel-surfing or scrolling, and give you their attention. But at the same time, don’t latch onto something trendy and interesting just to grab someone’s attention if it’s not true to your value proposition – this brings us to point No. 4…
  4. Build trust by being authentic. Once you grab your audience’s attention with something relevant, this is your big opportunity to communicate your messages. Don’t blow it by undermining your audience with a straight sales pitch. And if you are creating content that is part of a larger trend, don’t just follow the herd. Be quick, early and first, or offer a fresh outlook or perspective on the trend of the day. Earn your audience’s trust by offering valuable content that is worth reading and still authentic to your brand. Then, you have earned the right to market to them. When your audience sees that you are relevant, you understand their needs and you can solve a problem for them, that’s when you’re seen as not just brand marketing, but as a trusted resource.