How do you get word-of-mouth like that?
Or, let’s say you’ve written a great guest post on a high-volume site, or you’re interviewed on radio. Overnight, thousands of new people discover your site.
Would you be ready? Would these new visitors be able to quickly determine if your site is relevant enough to them to subscribe, bookmark, or return?
They’d better be able to – and fast.
Because we now live in a bite-sized world: a world where people communicate in truncated words and phrases by typing rapidly with their thumbs on tiny devices.
But this is not a post about Twitter.
This is a post about how to communicate and be heard in the new era of chaotic message traffic and information overload.
If you want to get word-of-mouth, or even get noticed at all, you’re going to have to get small.
Short Attention Span Theater
Information overload may be new to the world, but sensory overload and complexity are not. And the human brain has evolved with a built-in solution.
And the solution may surprise you: When complexity reigns, the brain simplifies.
As Bill Schley points out in his great e-book, Survival of the Simplest – The Micro-Script Rules (available as a free download on ChangeThis):
Behavioral scientists tell us that, in moments of crisis, we shift to an unconscious intelligence that is remarkably fast and accurate . . . (these built-in rules) make us discard information, not collect more of it, to get smarter. When things get scary and complicated, our mental rules of thumb direct us to a much smaller set of more vital data. They tell us that simpler makes us smarter.
This is what your future customers are doing: They are simplifying. Right now.
In the face of complexity and overload, they are discarding information by:
• Being more selective about which emails they even open, let alone read
• Cutting down the amount of time they spend considering or reading any one item
• And expecting fewer, easier steps in the shopping and buying process in general.
It’s not that long-form content is going anywhere. (Whew!) More than ever, people need good source material. In fact, The New York Times found that people shared longer, more in-depth articles more often than they did short ones.
Our question is: What caused these busy people to pause in the midst of their busy day to stop, read, and then share those long articles with others? What led those readers to that NYT article in the first place? In order to lead someone to your long-form content, you’ve got to get their attention first, and point out why they should care. And today, we have to help people make that decision in micro-seconds.
Beyond the Elevator Pitch and the USP
We know we need a short, memorable sentence or two to describe what we do when first meeting a potential client.
And then there’s the classic Unique Selling Proposition, the sentence that’s supposed to make customers stop in their tracks and notice you.
It’s not that the elevator pitch or the USP have been replaced.
It’s just that online, the amount of time we have to get our message across is shrinking in direct proportion to the amount of information available.
We now get to share our message in bite-sized, memorable chunks — one pithy phrase at a time.
So how do we accomplish this?
Short-change your emails
We prefer long-form posts, sent out weekly as full emails. It’s not the model we use on all our sites, but we feel it fits our vibe here.
We know our readers are busy, and not everyone on our list reads every one of our posts.
While our intention is to make every post as valuable as possible, our primary task is to provide a subject line that is a sort of “headline” for the post and email. That single line must quickly tell you, the reader, if this post is worthy of your valuable time. If my subject line doesn’t do this in a pithy, memorable way, I’ve lost your attention.
The idea here is to accept that your audience is busy and filtering, and write subject lines that help them filter successfully. It’s not about writing such compelling subject lines that you trick them into reading an email they won’t ultimately find relevant. That is a sure way to lose your readers’ trust.
Go “meta” and get found online
Yes, your post titles are important – that’s how people scanning your site choose what to read – but when it comes to the search engines, it turns out the name of your post may not be nearly as important as your “meta tags.”
If you’re using WordPress with a great theme like Genesis, then as you create each post or page, you’ll see convenient little boxes in which you’ll enter short sentences called the meta title and the meta description. These carefully chosen words tell the search engines how to refer to your post or page in their database.
It’s how people will (or won’t) find you.
Very much like the subject line of an email, this short tag should be the perfectly tantalizing summation of what’s inside, and is often your first and last opportunity to bring new readers – and customers — to your site. Get it right, and each page becomes a valuable traffic asset that builds exponentially over time.
Get it wrong, and no one clicks through to your valuable content.
We can’t say enough about Scribe SEO, a simple piece of software that’s turning ordinary writers into SEO geniuses. Scribe helps you focus on creating content and meta-descriptions focused on how you want to be found online.
The software – easily added as a plug-in to your WordPress blog or used on the Scribe website — scans your content and gives you a score, literally telling you how likely you are to be found in the search engines for the keywords you most want to be found by.
Honey, I Shrunk The Site
Most of all, your site must be able to survive the new rules of small.
Google has been rolling out their Instant Preview feature all over the web, and they’re changing the search game, again.
Now, your potential readers can simply mouse over a little symbol next to your Google listing, and a small thumbnail view of your site pops up. Where a site owner used to have three seconds to get and keep someone’s attention once they arrived at their site, with the Instant Preview, our opportunity to get attention has been bite-sized.
Not only must you have great, clean design to catch the eye, but your bite-sized headlines had better be compelling, too.
And the screens are getting smaller too: your customers will increasingly find your site and want to interact with it while scrolling through content on smaller screens, on the subway, or while walking down the street. How does your site look on an iPhone?
How to shrink your message: create your “Micro-Scripts”
One of my favorite marketing books of the last year is by the same author of the e-book I mentioned above: Bill Schley’s The Micro-Script Rules.
Mr. Schley argues that the world is indeed more complex than ever, and those who will win attention – and sales – are those who know how to tell their story in “about one line or less.” In his ChangeThis e-book he lays out his philosophy:
The new hyper-connected, democratic technologies that allow every human being to become an instant mass media outlet have created a lot of message traffic—roughly 500 billion whizzing by per second. Your chances of getting a word in edgewise—just by “joining the conversation” as they cavalierly say—is an irrational hope. Unless you do three things.
And what are Mr. Schley’s three things?
- Concentrate on more message, not just more medium—so you have something you want to say that switches on their imagination once you’ve got their attention.
- Package your idea in the natural way the brain loves to receive—in fact, can’t resist. And…
- Understand that in our hyper-connected world, it’s not what people hear that really matters; it’s what they repeat.
The Micro-Script Rules is a game-changer because Mr. Schley makes a critical distinction: An effective micro-script isn’t just a great tagline, subject line, or headline. A micro-script is something people want to repeat, tweet, and share.
And this word of mouth is the holy grail of marketing in the age of the short-attention span. His subtitle says it all: “It’s not what people hear. It’s what they repeat.”
That’s a great micro-script right there.
And of course, we can’t forget the twit …
And we come full circle: social media. There are plenty of software tools that instantly distribute your brilliant words out to all of the social media sites, in small, pithy chunks of bite-sized wisdom.
It’s in the social networks, increasingly in the future, your customers will find you.