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8-Second Pitch: What Snapchat, Twitter and Your Marketing Approach Should Have in Common

by: David Pyrzenski (@pyrzenski)
24 June 2016

In today’s sensory-overload, instant-access, omnichannel world of consumer marketing, the fight for exposure and attention has never been harder. As we’ll detail below, you’ve got roughly eight seconds to make enough of an impression on someone that they’ll continue interacting with you.

If you’re spending a significant amount of brand marketing budget on social media campaigns for Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook, congratulations: You’re already following the new rules of marketing by default. That doesn’t mean you’re maximizing your channel strategy, it just means you’re already thinking in terms of an “eight-second pitch.” Here are five things you need to know about making an impression in today’s marketing world:

1) Attention spans are shrinking.

According to a 2015 Microsoft study, a consumer’s average attention span has decreased from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to eight seconds in the year 2013. The effects of this phenomenon on our marketing efforts should be fairly obvious — it’s more important than ever to get to the point quickly.

The Movable Ink “US Consumer Device Preference Report: Q3 2015” highlighted that the average time spent reading an email on an iPhone was zero to three seconds. Overall, 82 percent of iPhone users spent less than 15 seconds reading an email on average. When you look at the way platforms like Twitter are conditioning people, this just makes sense. A study by IReST determined that we can read about 987 characters per minute. With a Twitter post limited to 140 characters, that’s roughly 8.5 seconds per tweet — right in our “attention zone.”

2) Startups are pouncing.

One doesn’t need to look far to see how startup companies and brands are reaping the benefits of this altered consumer behavior. Attention span shrinkage has driven demand for short-format content that can be quickly processed — hence, “snackable.”

Snapchat, which offers customers the ability to share short-form content, now has more active monthly users than Twitter. Vine, a short-form video sharing service through which users can share six-second-long looping video clips, was purchased by Twitter for $970 million. Buzzfeed’s “Tasty” fast-forward videos have 13.6 billion views at 24.2 million views per video. 1 Second Everyday is a new service that stitches together one-second videos into a sequential collage that can replay someone’s entire year in minutes.

3) There are implications across channels.

How much time do you spend reading your emails? Specifically, how much time do you spend reading a singular email? It’s probably situational. If it’s an email with instructions on how to assemble a mountain bike, you might spend hours or days reading it. But in most cases, such as with promotional emails and transactional emails, you’re either done after the subject line or after about three seconds of skimming or glancing.

How about when you get a push notification or SMS? Chances are good the mobile push notification isn’t a rich experience with a lot to digest, and because of carrier rates, SMS is probably concise as well. For marketers, this translates to less concern with mobile push and SMS when it comes to attention spans. But for email, creative marketers still need to be proactive with their content restraint.

4) A picture is worth two words.

Knowing that we probably have eight seconds or less to capture someone’s attention, think about everything that goes into processing an email in your inbox. As a way of “timing” our activities, I used a study on judgment and decision making. Deciding if you’re going to open an email based on the subject line takes about 0.5 seconds. If you’re not immediately convinced and look to the pre-header, that’s another 0.5 seconds. Finally making the final decision to open an email takes about 0.5 seconds. So, 1.5 seconds could be lost in decision-making before the email is even opened.

Once you’ve opened the email, varied content will really start eating up time. According to Hick's law, increasing the number of choices someone has will increase the decision time logarithmically. So deciding on the singular CTA (call to action) is critical.

In cases where you need to convey more than one message or offer, you’re likely better off with images over text. A team of neuroscientists from MIT has found that the human brain can process entire images that the eye sees for as little as 13 milliseconds. Deciding where to move the eyes can take 100 to 140 milliseconds. So each picture you include is the functional equivalent of about two words of text.

5) It’s time to think like food court vendors.

Before the neuroscientists and advertising specialists dissect my analysis to the nth degree, I’ll freely admit I took many liberties with the data. But it makes sense. People are being conditioned to consume small “snackable” amounts of content and have derived a preference for it.

My advice is to embrace this trend with your outbound communication strategy. Use the food court vendors as an analogous reminder: Give one small taste of sesame chicken, and let the customer decide to come in and devour the whole buffet.

Get More Digital Marketing Tips:

1) Tip Sheet: “10 Tips for Driving Engagement Using Email + Social

2) Blog: “Clicks, Conversions and High-Fives: 3 Tips to Focus and Refine Your Marketing Measurements

3) Tip Sheet: “Transactional Emails: 10 Tips for Driving Value and Engagement


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