There are Facebook ads and other social media strategies. Then, there are SEO rules and organic search traffic metrics. Content creators have a lot to consider. But there’s one simple and powerful technique that creators often overlook. Learn more about how details can hook your audience’s attention better than almost any other strategy in this primer by Donna Freedman.
My former MSN Money editor told me bloggers have just 2.1 seconds to get a reader’s attention. That’s why bloggers should aim to tell more with less. Or, as the old newspaper adage has it, “Show – don’t tell.”
Suppose you want to mention a regional heat wave. Don’t do it this way:
Yesterday was the hottest day I can ever remember. My clothes were sticking to me and my hair was all sweaty and I almost came down with heat stroke.
By contrast, here’s how Annie Dillard described a rough summer day:
It was hot, so hot that the mirror felt warm.
Hook Your Audience’s Attention with Details
That is a great detail – and all she had to do was notice it. The right details will show rather than slow the story, turning even an ordinary topic into a memorable post.
Or suppose you’re posting about the day you decided to change your financial life. That was the day an ATM wouldn’t let you withdraw any cash and, as you turned away, you glimpsed a bank poster suggesting you save for future dreams.
“Future?” you thought. “I can’t even pay my bills in the present!” Both the poster and your response are great details for describing a money epiphany. Someone who’s also having money troubles will identify – which means you have a chance to help that person fix their life. It also means you have a new reader. #win-win
Details provide perspective. “Students are taking out a lot of loans these days” sounds pretty mealymouthed. Here’s a better way to spotlight the crisis: “According to the Institute for College Access & Success, the average college grad leaves with a debt load of $29,400.”
Adding Energy to Every Kind of Writing
The right details will liven up green-vegetable pieces, too. (Those are the articles you do because they’re good for readers.) How to get people excited about retirement savings? Try this:
- Jessica starts saving for retirement at 22 and stops at 32.
- Phil doesn’t start until he’s 32, but keeps it up until retirement.
- Jessica still ends up with more money. Don’t be like Phil. Start early!
Note: The same show-don’t-tell rule applies to research. It is not your job to force-feed facts to make sure the reader Gets Your Point.
The Right Words Make All the Difference
Use the best details to connote a scene, a mood, a memory. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to have details come over and sit on your lap: Broken glass crunching underfoot as you walked through a dicey neighborhood toward your new job, or the spittle that flew from the mouth of your rage-a-saurus new boss in your first hour at work. (Extra realism points for mentioning the specific amount of your own student loans, a number that kept you in the job longer than it should have.)
Most times, though, you’re going to have to pay attention – to the topic, the research, the world at large.
Annie Dillard noticed a mirror. What will you notice?
Before you go, check out these other writing tips from five breakout bloggers to grab other techniques to hook your audience’s attention.
Longtime journalist Donna Freedman (DonnaFreedman.com) has written for dozens of personal finance sites.
She created the “Write A Blog People Will Read” online course and is the author of “Your Playbook for Tough Times: Living Large on Small Change, for the Short Term or the Long Haul” and “Your Playbook for Tough Times, Vol. 2: Needs AND Wants Edition.” Her work has won regional and national awards.
Great article Donna! Really loved adding the details that set the mood quickly.