Content Development|Thought Leadership|Trends|

By leveraging linguistic drivers, marketers can create higher impact content that nets more than just views.

Content is king, but there’s a difference between catching people’s attention with your marketing efforts and captivating them. Increased views and clicks are good and necessary objectives, but how do marketers keep an audience engaged, maximizing focus on their content?

From brands to consumers, managers to employees, teachers to their students and on and on, the goal to gain and hold an audience’s attention is practically universal. The key is to analyze how content, including the language used, shapes and holds the audience’s attention. A 2023 Journal of Marketing study, which performed a multi-method investigation utilizing natural language processing of more than 600,000 reading sessions from 35,000 pieces of content, combined with controlled experiments, offers key lessons for chief marketing officers.

Holding Attention

What moves content consumers past the head-turned, “window shopping” stage to one of sustained attention and interaction? The JM study emphasizes the important role of emotional language and shows how different verbal features shape content consumption. 

How effective emotional language is in sustaining attention will depend on the link between specific emotions, uncertainty and arousal. For example, anxiousness by nature is more uncertain than anger and will typically “increase attention and processing as people try to resolve what will happen.”

The study suggests that language channeling high-arousal emotions should sustain attention and encourage continued consumption. Using our example, anxiety checks both the uncertainty and arousal boxes while anger scores only in the latter and thus would typically score lower in eliciting consumer consumption. At the other extreme, sadness would trigger neither uncertainty nor arousal.

Two Sides of the Content Coin

Improving content creation is obviously important for advertisers, marketers, publishers and presenters, but are they focused on how to sustain attention versus merely getting it? Even some experts still think that holding people’s attention is almost entirely dependent on topic (e.g., celebrity gossip rather than financial literacy), but the study digs deeper into how language, the building blocks of content, factors into how consumers react.

“What holds attention is not always the same as what grabs attention or encourages word of mouth,” according to the study. “While more certain language can increase likes and shares, we show that emotions that make people feel certain are actually detrimental when it comes to sustaining attention… Retaining attention is a different type of engagement.”

This content reality holds huge consequence, from your company’s bottom line to the nearly $600 billion digital marketing industry as a whole to even the enormous implications of social media’s role in the dissemination of disinformation and hate speech.

“From authors to heads of state, everyone wants, if not demands, attention, but we can’t all be the Pied Piper of persuasion, whisking away the audience to our desired place or action in one fell swoop,” said Tori Alexis, one of infinitee’s Brand Managers. “Connection is so vital to marketers so it’s imperative to know the building blocks, most notably language, of successful content creation. And team up with a veteran partner who can help with innovative, creative, highly-engaging and high-impact marketing strategies.”


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