One of the biggest misconceptions in marketing is that people have short attention spans, and because of that, you should always write extremely concise advertisements because people simply can’t pay attention for very long.
This is completely wrong.
People do have long attention spans. However, everybody’s time is valuable, and they fiercely protect it.
The more time people spend with you, the bigger the chance you have to create a positive impact on their lives, deepening your relationship with them, increasing their receptiveness to your offers, as well as their loyalty to you and your message.
For example, one of the most popular podcasts currently around is The Tim Ferris Show. Tim produces interviews with experts and celebrities. He doesn’t edit them to just the highlights. His interviews are long. Sometimes extremely. They’re usually at least an hour. Sometimes two hours. Or more.
And guess what? His podcasts have been downloaded nearly half a billion times. It turns out people want to listen to hour-long interviews.
Another example: In the world of politics, nearly every major politician publishes a book. Why? This is an incredibly efficient way to build loyalty with their potential supporters. If you spend eight hours reading someone’s story, odds are you’ll grow to like them and want to support them. Not only that, their book will have just as much time to influence your life in a positive way.
The bottom line: People are looking to improve their lives. However, everybody also fights to protect their time. If you want to be part of someone’s life, fight for their time as well. Provide value. Work hard to understand them and their unique needs.
The sad fact is that today’s world of media is obsessed with grabbing people’s attention without providing meaningful value. Think of the endless scrolling people do on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Each message displayed on the screen is usually considered for mere seconds, at best.
This presents a rather ironic contradiction: People often pay attention to Facebook for extended periods of time, while simultaneously not really paying attention to any particular thing. I know this happens to me more than I care to admit: Scrolling through the feed can be time consuming, and yet, leaves me feeling completely empty.
This is why so many people are fed up with platforms such as Facebook: They don’t respect the time we spend with them. This is ultimately destructive. It’s also why people talk about being addicted to social media. On the other hand, people only sarcastically talk about being addicted to reading a good book, even if they spend their every waking moment reading it. What’s the difference? One is meaningful, the other isn’t.
Provide Incredible Value and People Want to Spend Time With You
If you want to have a positive impact on the world, I encourage you to focus on providing as much value as possible in your marketing efforts. Respect the time of the people you are engaging with. Work to understand them, then demonstrate that understanding.
This is a big part of why The Loyal Audience Blueprint works so well — because, if you respect people’s time, provide value, and demonstrate understanding, they will want to spend time with you.
Create Lasting Impact
Over a month ago, I read a book called Atomic Habits by James Clear. It immediately clarified so many things in my life. Even though I haven’t read the book in a month, I have thought of it often. Through his writing, James Clear has improved my life dramatically.
I’ve been paying attention to him, and his ideas, ever since I read his book, even when I haven’t actually been reading anything by him. (I actually just sent him a thank you note about this.)
Thinking about the personal relationships in my life that matter the most, their importance is not measured by the quantity of time, but by the impact they’ve had on my life.
Lasting impact can happen very quickly. However, it can also be slow. The more time you spend with people, working towards that positive change, the more likely you are to be successful.
Ultimately, what matters is the positive impact you have one someone’s life. Not the amount of time you spend with them. That should always be the focus: Positive change, using all of the tools, techniques, and strategies at your disposal. Sometimes this requires a long attention span from your audience. Sometimes it takes just a few moments.
The advantage of spending more time with someone is that it gives you more opportunities to have a positive impact on their lives. As I was reading Atomic Habits, my mind was whirling with ideas about how to change my life for the better. It took me around eight hours to read the book, in half-hour sessions over two weeks. While I was reading the book, I spent a lot of time actively engaged and thinking about the ideas in the book. This added up, over the two weeks, to a lot of positive change that I’m still experiencing today.
The Bottom Line
So, is it better to present long-form content, or to present short-bursts?
The answer depends on so many factors, including the relationship you’ve already built, or haven’t built, as well as the context you are communicating through. A one-on-one conversation can be impactful in ten minutes, or an hour. A 300 word article can change the trajectory of someone’s life. So can a 100,000 word novel.
However, as a rule, the more time you spend with people, the more opportunities you have to create the positive impact you want. So, don’t be shy about working hard to earn people’s attention for long periods of time, and then asking for it. If you’ve done your job, people will pay attention.
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