It’s easy to tell when my 2-year-old daughter is losing interest in something. With an abrupt proclamation of, “ALL DONE!” and a quick, deliberate flick of the wrist, she can catapult scrambled egg chunks across the room — letting it be known that she’s no longer interested. When it comes to your target audience, however, they aren’t always so vocal when they lose interest in your content. Often, it’s quite the opposite — they simply go dark. They stop opening your emails, they ignore your social media posts, and they glance right over your articles and direct mail.
Although there is presumably a discrepancy in level of sophistication between my toddler and your target audience, sometimes the basic lessons are the most important. Here are three basic lessons that I learned from my toddler — each scenario written from her 2-year-old perspective.
1. Apples are old news.
An apple?!? How dare you! (Throws apple on the ground, rolls under oven to be forgotten indefinitely.) Yes, I’m fully aware that apple was my absolute favorite food yesterday. Not today. Looks like I’m going to have to cry. Wait … WHAT IS THAT!?! Give me that! (Receives a pear.) Oh my. This … this is the most delicious thing I’ve ever had in my life. “Dank doo, Dada!” (Translation: Thank you, Dad.)
Lesson learned: People like variety. Surprise your audience with consistently fresh content, and they will dank doo.
But now you’re thinking — I have all these apples sitting here going to waste. Fear not. There’s still a use for those apples.
2. Cut them up and put them in a strawberry carton.
Seriously? You’re going to hand me a whole apple again? I thought we covered this, Dad. Hey, what’s that plastic thing on the counter? Give me that! I must hold that thing immediately. (Strawberry carton is handed to her with sliced apples inside. She crunches the carton and lets out a breathy, delighted chortle.) Ooh! I like the looks of this. Kind of tastes like apple, but it’s in this fun wedge shape. Plus, it’s in this crunchy plastic thing. I will cram all of this wedged carton fruit in my mouth immediately. “Dank doo, Dada!”
Lesson learned: There’s no reason to let perfectly good content go to waste — just cut it up and put it in a new package. What was once a 1,200-word article published in a trade magazine can easily be revised for publication in a different vertical market, revived as a weeklong series of how-to tips pushed out through social media, rebuilt as an infographic that serves as sales literature or used as the framework for a how-to video. All of a sudden, it’s once again attractive. Your audience will dank doo.
Attention spans are short these days, however. And no matter how compelling your new and/or repurposed content is, you must get to the point quickly in order to keep your audience interested.
3. Entertain me immediately.
I am not the least bit interested in this news program you’re watching, Dad, and I will use my limited vocabulary to let it be known — repeatedly. “Elmo, TV, Elmo, TV, Elmo, TV.” (Becomes increasingly hostile.) “ELMO!” (Dad gives in, scrolls through Netflix for Sesame Street.) Aaahhh, instant gratification! Wait a minute … this isn’t Elmo. (Looks at screen — sees Gordon.) I don’t recall asking for Gordon, Dad. Was it not clear when I repeatedly screamed, ‘Elmo TV?’ (Elmo comes on; sigh of relief.) “Yuh yoo, Dada!” (Translation: I love you, Dad.)
Lesson learned: Your audience isn’t relying on a dad to fast-forward to the best part. Lead with the most compelling part of the story, and your audience will stay engaged. And if it’s really good (as good as Elmo), hopefully they will yuh yoo.
While these three lessons are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to engagement — keep in mind they came from a 2-year old. As audiences grow and become more diverse or complicated in terms of preferences (think toddler versus tween), ongoing testing and measurement becomes increasingly important. And the true measure of success is not just determined by level of engagement, but rather, the level of impact the content makes on your objectives.
For more on evaluating content effectiveness, check out a recent blog post from our very own Patrick McGill..