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SPI 632: The Truth about Short Attention Spans

There’s a huge problem that we have to figure out. If we don’t, the time and money we spend creating content will be wasted.

In this episode, I want to share my thoughts on the pandemic of short attention spans. This is not about the squirrel syndrome that has entrepreneurs darting from idea to idea without ever focusing on any of them. What I’m talking about today is how and why our audiences have become accustomed to content like TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts.

Even if we never use these platforms, the time we have at our disposal to capture someone’s attention is now shorter than ever. We really only have a second or two to get people to stick around. So how do we optimize our posts for these new content consumption habits?

I’m learning a lot as I go through my 30-day TikTok challenge, and I want to share some of my findings with you in this episode. These tips apply to everything from podcast intros to blog posts and are vital for any modern content creator.

There’s more to come, but join me today for a discussion about the strategies I use to adapt and stay relevant online!

SPI 632: The Truth about Short Attention Spans

Pat Flynn: Welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, where it’s all about working hard now, so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And know your host, he grew up an NSYNC fan, but has slowly become a fan of the Backstreet Boys too. Pat Flynn.

There’s a huge problem that we as content creators have to figure out.

Because if we don’t figure it out all the time we use all the energy and even money we use on creating content is gonna be absolutely wasted. What am I talking about? I’m talking about this pandemic of short attention spans. Not just our short attention spans, which we’ve talked about before and we’ve, we have, right?

You, we go from here to here and we have squirrel syndrome and that’s in and of itself a problem for sure that we have to manage and figure out. And we have to know what to say yes to. We have to know what to say no to. But I’m speaking more from the consumer’s point of view. AKA your audience. Our audiences out there have a very short attention span, and it’s been short for a while, but today, more than ever, it is the shortest it’s ever been.

And I think we know this and we know why. It’s because we are starting to get used to how content is consumed on platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts. And the truth is those things are only going to continue to infiltrate how our audience consumes content. You know what I’ve learned from people like Kenya Kelly, who’s been on the show before, as well as Brock Johnson, and even just in this TikTok experiment that I’m doing right now, is that you kind of have to know how to create great content on these platforms.

But even if you don’t, which is again fine, if you are just solely a podcaster or you only create long form YouTube videos, that’s fine. You have to know how to capture attention immediately. Within the first, second or two. And if anything, getting on TikTok to understand and to study how people are capturing your attention in the first second can be very enlightening because doing that on YouTube, even with long form videos is now important because the shorts and the long form videos, they sort of cross pollinate. And so people who are used to having their attention captured within the first second are gonna be fed your long form videos.

And if you don’t do that, they’re going to bounce. And what happens when a person bounces from your YouTube video? Is that it tells you to, Hey, people don’t stick around in this video, therefore they don’t then share it with others. So again, it’s really important to think about this and my sort of studies recently have shown me that there’s always a reason in the first one or two seconds that I’m going to stick around.

I either see or hear something that I’ve never heard before, in which case that just provokes a sense of curiosity, right? So that’s one thing. How can we get people curious within the first couple of seconds? Another thing is to just go right into a story because that invokes, again, more curiosity, but it brings us and transports us to somewhere else, right?

So we don’t have time to think, okay, is this worth it yet. We’re kind of still allowing for that story to come across and you know, hopefully it’s engaging enough upfront and relatable. That’s the other thing. It’s relatable. If it’s relatable, then I can understand it. Sometimes it’s spectacular. Something that is sort of over the top or exaggerated.

Other times it is a promise that is spoken about in the first one or two seconds that I then have to stick around for, you know? And there is a line there, obviously. You know, when I see a TikTok video or an Instagram Reel or a YouTube Short that says, I’m about to show you something that’s going to blow your mind, okay, I may or may not stay for that, right?

Because we hear that all the time. Now if you say something like that in a video or you have a hook in the beginning that does promise something like that, then you have to deliver else it’s just not going to come across well, right? It’s one thing to capture people’s attention, but it’s another thing to hold it and sort of fulfill the promise that you’re offering.

So, you know, I don’t have a perfect formula right now. I’m in the middle of this 30-day TikTok experiment. I talked about it in one of the last episodes here, and so I invite you to check the Pat Flynn channel or account at TikTok, that’s @Pat_Flynn over at TikTok, because I’m creating different kinds of content and I’m exploring different ways to do it.

You might even see little clips of this podcast there that are being filmed. I’m actually filming this right now and I’m gonna find a good clip and I’m using Descript to do that, by the way. It’s an amazing tool many of you have heard me talk about before from an audio editing point of view, you can actually do some amazing things now with video editing using their storyboard features.

So what I’m doing is literally, right now I am recording this both on video and audio using Descript, and what I can do is I can highlight a portion of it to export and put into a template that turns it into a vertical video specifically that can be used for places tikTok Instagram and YouTube Shorts.

The other thing I’ve been learning about TikTok so far since the experiment’s been going for, you know, a couple weeks now, is that quantity is an important part of it, right? This is very different than the way that I normally approach content, which is let me take some time in between to create something amazing that is of value and that people are looking forward to, and I can train my audience to understand that every piece of content, every podcast, every video, is worth sort of watching.

In the short form video content platform, you will benefit by just creating more. And so you cannot have a perfectionist attitude. You have to figure out quick, easy ways to capture attention and hold that attention and tell a good story or reveal something within 15, 30, 60 seconds or upwards of three minutes on TikTok at least only upwards of 60 seconds on Instagram.

But anyway, going back to the whole point here, attention spans are short. So study how you consume content on these platforms so you can incorporate how people are holding your attention and then bring those into your own content as well. And not just in short form content, but, but even in longer form content too.

The beginning of your podcast episodes, at the beginning of blog posts, and especially in the beginning of videos where that’s, that algorithm’s gonna be really, really key holding people after they watch your video. And of course, YouTube Longs if you wanna call ’em Longs regular videos, you also have to worry about the title and the thumbnail.

You don’t have to to worry about that on these platforms where an algorithm will show the video without any thumbnail at all. These videos are shown without sort of clicking on them, and your job is to again, hold that attention. So practice that. And what I love about the idea of quantity on these platforms is although, you know, initially I’m like, oh, this means I have to create a lot.

Sure, yes, it, it means you do. But the other part of this is you get a lot of reps. That’s the beauty of this. You get a lot of reps, and I’ve noticed that more and more on these short form platforms, the more people publish, the more successful they are. And it’s not because their videos are getting pushed out to more subscribers.

You know, subscribers are a thing on these platforms, but similar to YouTube, it’s, it’s not even a metric that really matters. It’s the reach. But what I’ve noticed is that how people get better at hooking a person right from the start gets better as people create more. And so just naturally by doing that and focusing on it, you will get better and you will get more views and more of your videos are gonna have a chance.

You know, ride that algorithm and currently we’re doing okay. Not quite where I am on my other TikTok, which is the Deep Pocket Monster Channel. But that audience is, you know, the benefit of, here’s a great analogy that somebody told me the other day. They’re, they’re like, Hey, pat, your Deep Pocket monster Channel does really well, especially on TikTok, because there is surprise and curiosity built into that particular industry.

You know, there’s a pack of cards. You need to know what’s inside, and you have to stick around to the end to see what’s inside. So how can you create a pack of cards for your audience, right? You’re equivalent to a pack of cards. What is it that you’re showing that will eventually have a reveal or an uncovering or a discovering of something, right?

Another thing that I’ve learned works really well, and videos that capture my attention are the ones that. Again, yes, tell a story, but also kind of go into history a little bit. I’ve been really fascinated with a lot of these videos that teach me something about the past and when a person can make a connection for me about something that I kind of know about but don’t know the full story of, that’s when it really hits.

So let me say that one more time. When you can share with people a thing that they think they know, but something new about it or something different about it, something that is familiar to them, but you make it different or you, you share a different side of it. That’s when it can really hit home as well, because that familiarity, when people come across that video is gonna be intriguing because they’ve seen something familiar.

But the curiosity comes into play with how you flip that or how you change it up. Right? This is very similar to the conversations I’ve had. A person who’s been helping me with my books recently, Jeff GOs, who has talked about, you know, the title of your book, needs to be something that is kind of a head turner, right?

That talks about something and makes the person go, wait, no, I thought it was this way. I didn’t know it was that way, right? So we talked about this and you know, if you listen to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, you’ll know that there’s a lot of talk recently about my new book that’s coming out, which I’m very grateful for.

And again, thank you to everybody who reached out to me privately and and publicly to wish me luck on that and to offer support when it comes out. I’ll definitely be asking people for help to spread it far and wide. I think the, the goal isn’t even to get onto a bestseller lister or anything like that.

It’s to get this message and to help us with exactly what we’re talking about today, which is information overload. How do we filter what it is that’s out there for ourselves and so we can learn and benefit from it? And I’m telling you right now, when it comes to creating content, consume it with how these people are hooking you in mind.

And you know, we all have now the shortest attention span ever use that short attention span of yours to pay attention to how people are hooking you and go into these short form video platforms, even if you aren’t gonna create on these platforms to study and learn how that’s working. And so I’m hoping that this episode has helped you at least a little bit in terms of understanding where we’re at with content, and again, I’m not telling you, you have to have a TikTok, you have to have an Instagram Reel and or a YouTube Short, although there is definitely a lot of opportunity coming with YouTube short with the monetization that’s possible there very soon, if not already at the time that this episode.

Comes out. So I’m gonna be studying and exploring that as well. And I will of course report as I always do, and share on Twitter and Instagram sort of my findings at Pat Flynn for this view who haven’t followed me there yet. And I invite you to do so. So I can keep you informed cuz that’s something I’m studying a lot now.

Times have definitely changed. You know, back when I started it was all about creating these blog posts and you know, you didn’t have to worry about hooking people in so much because there wasn’t information like that available. Just the information alone was of value. But now there’s information overload.

So we have to work on these strategies to combat that short attention span. So I hope this helps you, and if you’ve stuck all the way through, then I’ve done somewhat of a good job of making that happen here and intriguing you enough to stay all the way through. So thank you so much. I appreciate you and I look forward to serving you in the next episode.

Hit that subscribe button so you didn’t miss out. Cheers, peace out. And as always, Team Flynn for the win. Have a good one.

Thanks for listening to the Smart Passive Income Podcast at I’m your host, Pat Flynn. Our senior producer David Grabowski, and our executive producer is Matt Gartland. Sound editing by Duncan Brown. The Smart Passive Income Podcast is a production of SPI Media. We’ll catch you in the next session.

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