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Top 10 Ways to Capture Attention

This is an article by Ben Parr, author of Captivology.

You probably deal with attention issues every day. How do I get the attention of new customers? How do I retain the attention of existing clients? How do I captivate my boss or my upcoming date? It’s a hard problem to solve, especially since very few people understand how attention fundamentally works.

Writing my new book Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention, I combed through more than a thousand research studies and interviewed dozens of scientists, PhDs, business leaders, and luminaries to understand why we pay attention to certain people and ideas and not others.

For my friend Guy Kawasaki, I’ve cherry-picked ten ways to capture attention, based on my research. While they won’t make you a superstar, they will help you capture more attention for your ideas:

  1. Give people a hot coffee. Studies show that we associate the physical sensation of warmth with interpersonal feelings of warmth. In other words, if you give somebody a hot cup of coffee or tea, they are more likely to have positive feelings towards you.
  2. Put a red border around your profile picture. Want to win at Tinder and online dating? One study found that just putting a thick red border around a person’s face increased how attracted a stranger found that person. Red is your friend in the dating world.
  3. Use contrasting colors for Buy” buttons. Amazon.com is filled with orange and yellow “Buy” buttons for a reason: they have clear contrasts against the site’s white and grey backgrounds which means a higher click-through rate.
  4. Make what you’re offering scarce. Our frame of reference shifts when we think something is scarce. Gmail and Medium got tons of attention by limiting who could join through controlled invite systems. Slow rollouts and limiting access is often a powerful way to capture attention.
  5. Give a gift at the most surprising time. Our brains are tuned to pay attention to surprises that violate our expectations. Next time you give a gift, do something different such as wrapping it in custom paper, giving it when people least expect it, or adding your own unexpected flair. Make sure you’re doing something unique and creative!
  6. Provide a visual of any prize or reward you offer. Multiple studies show that we are motivated when we can see the reward we want to achieve or see the prospective fruits of our labor. So don’t just tell your audience about a reward, show it to them!
  7. Harness experts. Our attention is incredibly deferential to experts, and experts are consistently rated as the top spokespeople a company can utilize. So try using a credible expert in your industry to provide a recommendation or to speak in your favor.
  8. Harness the crowd. We trust the wisdom of the crowd--without that trust, sites like Yelp would have no users. The crowd also gravitates towards places where it can participate and have a direct impact (like Indiegogo and Kickstarter).
  9. End with a cliffhanger. We have a compulsion for completion-- an innate, insatiable need for closure--because we are uncomfortable with uncertainty. Don’t be afraid to end your stories or campaigns with a cliffhanger because your audience will want to come back for the sequel! Remember how Steve Jobs ended his keynotes with “One more thing”?
  10. Validate what makes your audience special. We have an innate need for validation from others and to feel like we belong. The greatest projects, startups, and brands build lasting communities around them. More than anything, let your audience know it is appreciated, respected, and cherished.

If you embrace these ten recommendations, you’ll be sure to capture more attention, and as anyone with real-world experience knows, you can’t do much until you have people’s attention.