In a perfect world, every time we shared a link—whether it be to a blog post, a newsletter, or a tweet—all of our followers would click through and check out what was on the other side. Right?
But our attention spans are shorter than ever. In fact, a study from Microsoft says the average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds since the year 2000. Another study from the Nielsen Norman Group reminds us that especially online, readers are only scanning content—not reading line by line.
Add to that mix the algorithms of platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn that determine who sees what content and when, and you’re lucky to get engagement from a small percentage of your following on any online platform (think email subscribers, Twitter followers, etc.).
So how can you write in a way that persuades those whose attention you do grab to act? How do you get them to click through and read more or browse your sale?
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These five four-letter words can help.
Ah, "free." Now that’s a beautiful word. Businesses have been leveraging this word for years because they know that free stuff is, well, nearly impossible to resist. With no commitments, why not?
A Marketing Science study showed that when consumers had to choose between getting a Hershey’s chocolate free or paying 25 cents for a Ferrerro Rocher, 90 percent chose the free chocolate.
Lesson learned: If you want to pique the interest of your audience, tell them there’s something free at stake.
Building on the theme of a bargain-oriented audience, "sale" is another word to add to your persuasion swipe file.
Psychologists know that fear of missing out is very real—and limited offers that create a sense of urgency for an audience help tap into this emotional reaction.
It’s proven effective in email, too. When email platform Campaign Monitor studied the top performing words in thousands of email subject lines sent through their platform, they found that "sale" (used as the last word in a subject line) boosted open rates by 2.4 percent.
Lesson Learned: You don’t need to constantly tout a sale, but when you have a special promotion coming up, put this word to work.
What’s almost as good as something free or discounted? Something fast. Something that gives a person more time in the day to spend how they want to spend it (like watching re-runs The Office or playing with their dog.)
The American Time Use Survey tells us that the average person age 25-54 with children only has about 1.6 hours of “free time” each day. The rest of the time, they’re either sleeping or doing something important on their daily to-do lists. That’s not much—only 11.2 hours of the total 168 hours in a week.
Lesson Learned: "Fast" is mouth-wateringly appealing. Any time you can help someone free more time, there will be interest.
"Easy" is another pleasure-producing word in the human brain, and Freud tells us that the brain is wired to “seek pleasure and minimize pain.”
Think about it: If someone presented you with two solutions for one of your problems, and said, “One is really easy, and one takes five complex steps.” Which would you choose? (I know I’d pick "easy" without hesitation.)
Lesson Learned: People want easy. They love easy. It simplifies the thousands of processes and decisions they have to make every single day. If you have something to offer that makes life easy, shout it from the rooftops.
Finally, there’s that lovely word "best." "Best" produces interest in what you’re sharing because it expresses high quality that rises above the rest.
Here’s an example: Say you’re looking back at all of the blogs you published last year, and you find that one got a lot more views and interaction than everything else. When you go to re-share it, you could write: “Here’s the best blog we wrote in 2015. If you’re going to read one thing from us, read this.”
Lesson Learned: "Best" tells a reader this is the good stuff. You can ignore everything else if you want but don’t miss this.
Use Powerful Words for Powerful Results
These five words are classic results-producers, so if you’re trying to figure out how you can be more effective in the coming year with your copy, see how you can work these in.
Remember: Free, Save, Fast, Easy, and Best. These four letter words can help you get on the radar of your audience’s limited attention span.