How to Stand Out When Attention Spans Are Short


Written by Jeffrey Kan

4 mins

24th July 2019

There’s no denying that we are living in a fast-paced digital world. These days, content is everywhere in one form or another, and we’re all vying for each other’s attention. The impact? Modern consumers have short attention spans and lack patience, demanding fresh content here and now. Your audience can be fickle and what they want from you in any one day may not be the same tomorrow.

As the way we consume content is forever changing, the way we produce it has had to adapt too: first moving from text-based to image-focused, before favouring video, to today, where short video clips prove most engaging. Social media giants like Facebook and Instagram have taught us to scroll until we find something that stands out. But we’re often not fully engaged and it’s never long before we’re looking for something else.

Today’s thriving content providers (like TikTok) are well aware of this. In fact, they even take advantage of our diminishing attention spans; users have the ability to create and consume short and snappy, perfectly scrollable content. As marketers, we can certainly learn a thing or two from TikTok!

What is TikTok?

Since 2017, TikTok has been capturing the attention of (predominantly) 16-24-year olds from all over the world. With over 500 million monthly active users, TikTok is fast becoming a social media force to be reckoned with.

Learn more about what TikTok is and why people use it >

short attention spans tiktok

How Does TikTok Accommodate Our Short Attention Spans?

The maximum length of each video clip on TikTok is 15 seconds, which makes it perfect for quick consumption.

It’s also because of this content style that TikTok keeps its users in the app; before you even realise it, one video has ended, and another has already started playing. Due to the constant novelty of its content and the continual change of focus, TikTok users tend to spend significant amounts of time on the app – lost in a world of ever-changing content!

Why Does Content Go Viral Regularly?

TikTok features a specific video sharing mechanism; the more users that show interest in a video, the higher the “authority score” of that video. Videos with high authority scores spread easily and quickly across the app, appearing in more users’ recommended content.

While this isn’t unique to TikTok, and other platforms like Instagram and Twitter employ similar algorithms, the difference on TikTok is that your account stats have no bearing on whether your content will go viral. On other platforms, accounts with a high number of followers or a large amount of previous content have a better chance of their new content going viral – but not on TikTok!

So, if your video is creative and stands out from the crowd, there is a chance with each upload that you could get famous within the hour. An undoubtedly great incentive for TikTok users to publish something amazing.

short attention spans viral content

5 Reasons for Brands to Use TikTok

1. It’s Good for Raising Awareness

Since you’re in with a strong chance that your content will go viral on TikTok, it’s a channel to consider using as part of a brand awareness campaign. 

2. You Can Target a Specific User Demographic

While it doesn’t purposefully exclude other age groups, TikTok has established itself as a specialist platform with a userbase of predominantly 16-24-year olds. Young people have flocked to the app thanks to TikTok’s targeted customer acquisition campaigns, and they’ve also been drawn in by the Gen Z-friendly design of the app’s interface.

3. Because Content is Cheap and Easy to Create

Another reason why TikTok is so appealing to the youth market is because of the authentic, DIY nature to its content. This is also great news for marketers with limited resources. There’s no need for a production studio or high-level equipment (key to growth on platforms like YouTube). Just use your phone’s front camera and fire up your creativity!

4. The App’s Popularity is Growing

TikTok is growing fast – really fast. It has experienced the fastest growth amongst all social media networks, notably due to the investment from ByteDace and the acquisition of in 2017. It has even surpassed Instagram in the total number of app downloads (over 1 billion according to SensorTower).

5. There Are Exciting Advert Formats in the Pipeline

Currently, the only options for advertisers on TikTok are influencer marketing and direct insertion orders (IO). But according to Adweek, TikTok will soon release a biddable advertising option.

TikTok began to test ads in the US earlier this year, pitching four different advert formats:

  • In-feed video ads
  • Brand takeover ads that appear when a user first opens the app during the takeover period
  • Banner ads that encourage TikTok users to participate in brand-designed video challenges
  • Branded lenses that work in a similar way to Snapchat filters

So, advertisers – watch this space!

The Darker Side of TikTok

It’s got to be noted that it hasn’t all been plain sailing for TikTok so far. Twice the app has been investigated for taking advantage of its young fans. In fact, in February of this year, TikTok received a $5.7 million (£4.3 million) fine for hosting content from users despite knowing they were under the platform’s minimum age requirement of 16. More recently, the app has been under fire about whether it is doing enough to safeguard its young users and protect them from grooming and financial exploitation – an investigation which is still ongoing.

These issues aside, TikTok has undeniably reinforced the power of bitesize video content in the era of ever-shrinking short attention spans.

… Are you giving your audience what they want?

Read the first post in our TikTok blog series here >