According to a scientific study, humans now have a shorter attention span than goldfish due to the mass adoption of smartphones. The study, conducted by Microsoft, concluded that we have an attention span of just eight seconds (a goldfish has nine).
If you're still reading this, I'm impressed.
In a world of so many distractions and fickle attention, you have to bring your A-game if you want to stand out from the crowd, go viral and stay relevant.
If you're an influencer, you're not just competing against other influencers for people's attention. The same goes for entrepreneurs, small businesses, large brands or any other type of organization.
Everybody's competing against everybody on the same digital battlefields, whether it's Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, LinkedIn and all of the rest. A company selling washing machines could be competing against a fitness blogger to catch the finite attention of the same person.
People only have a limited amount of time that they spend on social media each day, which is why social media platforms use algorithms to determine what content should be shown and what shouldn't.
The result of these algorithms is that you won't actually see the majority of posts from accounts you're following, only a small selection of them. For example, on Instagram only 30 percent of posts are seen and on Facebook it's considerably lower.
I'm not saying any of this to be negative, I'm still very bullish on social media. I'm just emphasizing that your content has to be high quality in order to compete for attention. The theory of evolution and natural selection applies to the digital world too; it's survival of the fittest.
But let's forget about just surviving, and get down to how you can thrive. Here are five strategies that can be used to absolutely crush it on social media in 2018:
Use powerful emotions
Strong feelings make people more alert, more focused and ready to take action, which is why triggering them is so effective.
In his book, 'Contagious: Why Things Catch On', Jonah Berger identifies awe, excitement, amusement, anger and anxiety as the most effective emotions to target.
Awe is why stunning traveling photos get a lot of likes. Amusement is why everybody tags their friends in funny memes. Excitement is why there's so much buzz around new film or song releases. Anger is why controversial political news is widely shared. Anxiety is why people rush to enter competitions out of FOMO (fear of missing out).
When you create content that uses powerful emotions, it's much more likely to succeed because it appeals to our human nature. In other words, you don't have to ask people for their attention, they'll instinctively give it to you.
Provide useful value
Whether it's a short video on how to cook a delicious meal, a blog post of unusual fitness hacks or an infographic showing all of the hottest summer festivals, people love getting useful information. More importantly for you, they also love sharing that useful information.
But information by itself can be pretty dull, in which case it doesn't stand a chance against people's limited time and attention span, or their overcrowded social media feeds.
If you're going to provide useful value, make sure that it's provided in an engaging way that makes it crystal clear just how much value you're providing them with. This could be done though eye-catching visuals, entertaining commentary or it could be neither of those, but is so uniquely useful that it's naturally engaging.
Boost social status
People like to look good in front of their friends, family, partners, colleagues and even complete strangers.
If you can provide content that makes them look good, or be someone or represent something that makes them look good by association, then they're much more likely to pay attention to you, follow you and share what you have to offer with everyone they know.
There are three ways in particular that can boost someone's social status and make them look good.
First, you can help them define themselves through you. If you post a great joke, people can share it to be seen as funny. If you post a clever fact, people can share it to be seen as intelligent. If you post a charity appeal, people can share it to be seen as caring. You get the idea.
Second, you can make them a winner through gamification. This means turning something into a game (i.e. something that has rules, involves scoring points and competing against others). Gamification is why people share the flattering results of a quiz they took or that they won a competition, and why they collect loyalty stamps at their favourite coffee shop or as many credit card points as possible. They like to win and be rewarded for it, either through an actual prize or just being able to boast about it to others.
Finally, you can make them feel special through exclusivity or scarcity. Exclusivity means giving people access to something others won't have, for example offering your email subscribers a discount that isn't posted on your social media. Scarcity means giving people limited access to something, for example offering a discount to the first 50 people who comment on your latest post. When people are made to feel special, they don't keep it a secret, which means more people will be fighting over you the next time.
Maximize your visibility
There's no point in posting great content or building an amazing business if nobody sees it, that's why distribution is so crucial to your success. Don't just rely on people organically seeing what you do.
Hustle hard to ensure that you're maximizing your visibility, whether that means getting featured by a larger social media account or blog, cold-emailing influential people or doing collaborations with others in your niche to access their audiences.
Also ensure that your content is as discoverable as possible by using all of the features available to you on each social media platform. If you're on Instagram, tag a location in your post. If you're on Twitter, use hashtags. If you're on YouTube, use keywords in the video description.
When people increasingly see and engage with your content, you'll start seeing exponentially better results. You'll get more exposure to the followers of your followers, and their followers, and their followers and so forth. It's a snowball effect. You just need to work hard to reach that tipping point and then maintain your position.
Share compelling stories
Stories used to be drawn on cave walls thousands of years ago, but today they're posted on social media.
Humans love stories, which is why we're still so engaged by them. A good story beats an isolated piece of data or information every time, so your social media strategy should focus on storytelling more than just distributing data or information.
Humans of New York, which showcases captivating photos of strangers paired with short personal stories is one of the best examples of digital storytelling. It's distinctive, engaging, expressive, easy for others to explain the whole concept or retell the personal stories to others, and very often the stories that are told contain meaningful messages that are part of a wider narrative about life, society or the world we live in. This means that they're frequently remembered and used in every day conversions, and aren't just forgotten immediately after we see them.
Those characteristics are what your stories should be designed for in order to maximize their impact and longevity. However, make sure that you're deeply embedded within those stories, so that they can't be retold without mentioning you, your products, your services or anything else that you want your stories to covertly promote.
People have shorter attention spans than ever, coupled with a limited amount of time they spend on social media. At the same time, social media platforms are becoming increasingly crowded with different types of players all competing for the same finite amount of attention and time.
But it's nowhere near impossible to succeed, it's just harder. You can still go from zero to a million followers (or dollars) within a year or two with a combination of the right strategies, a compelling offering and hard work.
So if you want to stand out, go viral and stay relevant in today's world, use powerful emotions, provide useful value, boost social status, maximize your visibility and share compelling stories. Then keep hustling to stay at the top of your game.