The 140-character attention span

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140 characters is all it takes.

According to the Associated Press, in 2012 the average human attention span dropped to eight seconds – that’s one second less than the attention span of a goldfish.

Some say social media is to blame.

Twitter has forever changed media and the way human beings interact with each other.  With over 500 million registered users as of 2012, generating over 340 million tweets daily and handling over 1.6 billion search queries per day, Twitter has become one of the most used websites on the internet.

Twitter isn’t the only one.

Social Media Today published an analysis that Facebook posts of 70 characters or less get the most likes and comments; posts from 71 to 140 characters do less well; and the number of likes drops tremendously when posts are more than 140 characters. Websites like Pinterest and Tumblr are a continuous feed of photos and little text.  A new website called Vine, which hosts videos with a limit of six seconds, has also joined the race for the shortest content. Coincidence?

Not exactly.  The way people get their media has changed since Twitter’s creation in 2005.  Most will decide whether to keep reading within seconds.

What’s next? Will the attention-span of human beings continue to get smaller?

Hopefully not, but it won’t be changing anytime soon.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of this.  Almost constantly I can feel myself digging for my Iphone or scrolling through my Twitter feed without even realizing it. It’s also so easy to quickly scroll though tweets that I almost immediately deem “unworthy”.

This means more work for those involved in media. We no longer live in a world where the newspaper is our only news source once or twice a day. Now, those trying to promote news have to work extra hard to interest an audience and gain readership.

The wording of a tweet or status is so important when it comes to gaining and keeping an audience.  Hashtags should also be utilized as much as possible to expand your audience and graphics are colorful options that fit within an average person’s short attention span.

It’s better to start posting with these tips in mind all the time.  Social media won’t be disappearing anytime soon, and it’s likely that journalism professionals will have to promote their work like this for most of their career.

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