A photo speaks 1000 words — and clearly that applies to social media as well.
Statistical estimates that people spend 145 minutes a day on social media, but during quarantine, 8 hours of screens like these told a much different story.
Social platforms have evolved over the years to keep the user’s focus on images, video and animated graphics. With so much visual stimulation online and on social media today, brands are fighting for consumer attention. But competition also comes with attention.
You are definitely not the only one thinking about how to draw more attention to your visual content. But how can you create content that stands out 95 million other Instagram posts shared every day?
Through science – specifically, the science of attention.
The science of visual attention
Visual attention comes from brain activity, which means it can be studied and analyzed. So what exactly makes something visually interesting, and what makes something boring to watch?
In terms of marketing, which content gets engagement, clicks, and conversions, and which is scrolled and ignored? Cognitive requirements and clarity keep track.
Visual content that has low cognitive demand and high clarity is content that stands out, attracts attention and triggers action from the viewer.
Cognitive demand refers to how difficult it is for someone to understand part of the visual content. A low cognitive demand score means people can quickly understand your content (and that’s a really good thing!). A high score means that users spend too much time trying to understand what is going on in your content.
When visual content has a high cognitive demand, the brain moves on or ignores, and the viewer continues to scroll, not clicking on a call to action and not showing any interest and interaction that can help platforms show more of your content to this user.
Clarity it is calculated based on how visible the key areas of your content are. The key areas are your ad, product and call to action. A low clarity score means that it is difficult to find key areas. A high clarity score means people can easily find the most important parts of your content.
Visual content with high ratings of clarity attracts more attention, engagement, and clicks. Read on to find out how I determined this through my own social experiment.
Attention assessment, made up of metrics such as cognitive demand and clarity results, can tell you how much of a piece of content will behave without having to spend time, money, and resources on campaigns that fail.
It’s tempting to think that your goal is to have * the most interesting content online, but that’s probably not the right way to think about it.
In a recent post on the future of marketing, TINT shared an important conclusion from Dentsu’s Attention Economy report, “instead of targeting full attention at all costs, a bigger win for retailers is avoiding total avoidance, where audiences look – or go – far. . “
Encouraging attention is the first step towards moving to the next phase of the user’s path – decision making.
Human brain and the effects of visual attention on decision making – an experiment
When it comes to decision making, attention is not as black and white – as researchers from Ohio State University have discovered.
A study conducted by Microsoft says that people now have a range of attention like a goldfish, which means that traders have only 8 seconds to attract the visual attention of their potential client (human) so that they can make a decision quickly. But where does that leave companies that use strong visuals in their branding? I conducted an experiment on my personal social networks to measure the effects of attention points within branded material to see how users make a decision when buying goods. To conduct the experiment, I used similar but subtly different images of wine bottles (pictured below) in a survey with the question “Which bottle would you buy?” to my Instagram followers on a 24-hour Instagram story.
Of the 70 viewers of my story, 38% said a left bottle of wine was something they would buy. It can be seen that branding is much simpler with a small copy on the product label. While 62% said they would buy the right bottle, clearly showing more text and a centered logo.
When I compared the two images above using TINT’s Attention Score, a unique feature that scans content to visualize key points of attention to optimize content for greater visibility, I noticed that images are at different levels in cognitive and clarity ratings.
As we can see in the scanned images, the real image (most chosen by my followers on Instagram) shows a slightly higher concentration of cognitive demand and clarity, meaning the branded bottle is easy for the human brain to process in seconds and is visually most appealing in two bottles. While the left image has a higher concentration of attention directly towards the middle of the bottle. As a result, the human eye is less likely to notice it when reviewing a selection of wines in stores or online. With this experiment, we can conclude that such a small change in branding can make a big difference in setting the tone for your marketing. Attention assessment can significantly help in predicting how your image, or in this case, product branding, will work with a potential audience.
Maximize the attention potential of your visual content
Based on the findings of my experiment, there are some important tips to keep in mind on how to draw more attention to your content.
Use faces in your content
Pattern recognition is a huge part of the brain, which helps us jump to answers based on past experiences. If you’ve seen what a snake looks like before, you don’t have to stare at a rattlesnake until you realize how it produces that noise. Your brain has already signaled an alarm to go away, quickly, thanks to pattern recognition.
Humans have evolved to look for faces and to look at what * those * faces are looking at. This human perception has helped us know whether someone has taken our path, potentially posed a threat in the African savannah tens of thousands of years ago, or headed east – so we never know we’ve even noticed it.
By using human faces, your content immediately catches the attention of your audience. In this example, the heat map (generated by tracking eye movements) shows us how users are most attracted to the face and center of the person in the photo – and not at all focused on what shoes they are wearing or where they are going.
Keep visual content clean
The brain downloads a huge amount of data using a single scroll on social networks. There is no time for your content to have a high cognitive demand because too much is happening in your advertising creative. Focus on your main message and use copy, images, or both to show your point to draw selective attention to your product and call to action.
If too much happens in your content, it will increase your cognitive demand and reduce the result of clarity. People will not be able to understand what is happening fast enough and will continue to scroll. The content of low cognitive demand is clean, it just shows what * should * be there. This increases the result of clarity because users can easily understand what is happening, whether they care about it and whether they want to learn more.
For example, in this heat map, the TINT Attention Score revealed that users can switch from products, shoes, to a call to action, where their gaze remains for the longest period of time. See how clean this ad is? The time spent on a call to action is the moment of making a decision – which tells us that the message was clear enough for ideal customers to understand.
Focus on the fove of your image or video
The fovea is the part of the image that is most in focus and attracts spatial attention. It is usually in front and in the middle, where our eyes are naturally drawn. When you take a portrait photo on a smartphone, you see a fovea, along with a blurred background. Fovea is where our eyes are naturally attracted, which means that products should be strategically located there.
Espolón Tequila strategically places its bottle of tequila in the fovea image below, making it the pinnacle of the content’s field of vision. See how eye tracking software detects that people’s attention stimulus is focused on this part of the image more than on the more irrelevant stimuli in the background? Even better, people look directly at the label of this bottle of tequila. Even if the user doesn’t buy this Espolón from the ad, he is now familiar with branding – giving Espolón a better chance of conversion in the store below.
Let’s take a look at the second most viewed part of this photo – the female face in the background. Do not overestimate the importance of the face in its content, because even a face on a blurred background is still intriguing to the human eye.
Where should visual content live?
Visual content has many homes, and not just online. Social media, paid ads, and websites are digital homes for user-generated and user-generated content, but so are live screens.
Purdue University uses social media to share what “life in Purdue” is like. Notice how their mascot is in the fove of this photo – and the cheerleaders are in a blurred background? Your eyes immediately look at their mascot (and then immediately at the cheerleader’s face).
Ecommerce brands add user-generated content galleries to their product pages to increase conversions.
Visual content can live digitally or in person, but the science behind what makes decision-making remains the same – regardless of the medium.
Visual attention is a science
Attracting visual attention to your content is a science, supported by the current study and work of the human brain. Using what we know to be true about how the brain evolved to receive information, brands can curate visual content that works in conjunction with these mechanisms.
Three important points to keep in mind:
- Use faces in your content
- Keep your ad minimal and clean
- Put your brand in the fove of your image
These are the scientific mechanisms that can attract more attention to your brand. Along with A / B testing and proven content strategies — your visual content can garner more engagement and conversions in ads and campaigns.
Schedule a free TINT demo to see how our Attention Score technology will help you understand if your content is visually appealing before press publish.
Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.