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  • General Best Practices
How to Write Compelling Content for Millennials’ Short Attention Spans
Leah Mangold

The fact is, most millennials don’t want to read about your products. They don’t trust traditional advertising, and won’t click on something that looks like a sales pitch. It doesn’t matter if you got J.K. Rowling herself to write it— they aren’t going to read that long description of the things you offer.

At least not initially.

The key to marketing to this generation is to first focus on them, not you. What do they want? What do they value? Call them self-absorbed, but digital natives value the content that is relevant to them — and them only.

Once you have that in mind, you need to keep it mobile-friendly, brief, and authentic. Here are proven strategies for creating copy that gets read, and is relevant and valuable to millennial moms and dads. 

Make Content Brief

With all this talk about shorter attention spans, you may be wondering if there’s a magic number of words, or time, that would guarantee millennials read your content. Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic number. But, there is a rule of thumb: less is more.

Because millennials are busy, using multiple devices, researching, reading, and watching — absorbing content any way they can — it is essential that you get to the point (and quickly).

Hudson Montessori School in particular does an excellent job with keeping content brief. Relying heavily on testimonials and images, each page on this school’s site focuses on selling the value of the student experience to millennial parents.

Pictures of students with parent testimonial on school website

Make Content Scannable

Length is not always a problem. There is a time and place for lengthy, informative content — especially in the world of “edutainment.” Long articles help millennials get the information they crave, and answers they seek, building that brand loyalty early and often. And for you, they perform much better for search engine rankings.

The problem comes when articles aren’t scannable. Use the following tips to structure content in a way that pleases millennials, whether they’re surfing the web on their smartphone, tablet, or desktop.

1. Use headers and subheaders. Headers (H1) confirm that a millennial parent is in the right place, while subheaders (H2) confirm that the content is worth reading.

Lower School content with header and text

2. Break up your big paragraphs into smaller chunks using bullets, images, dividers and images. While headers and subheaders are used to garner attention, the paragraph text of any article or web page is the meat. Even if they do feel it is worth their time, they aren’t going to read large paragraphs of text. Bolding text like this also helps!

Text about kindergarten and at a glance for school

3. Use accordions to shorten pages. If you feel you cannot break up those big paragraphs, try nesting the information by category using an accordion feature so that readers can decide which content to skip over and which content to read. Don’t worry—accordions are still crawled by Google!

text about language arts opened up in accordion style on school website

4. If you’ve written other articles that explain some of your topics in full, include smart links to them instead of rewriting. Smart links are hyperlinked text that link to relevant pages. This puts the reader in the driver’s seat— making the information easily accessible to those who need it, without boring those who already know it. Added bonus: it helps with SEO.

5. Make sure it’s mobile first. Many people use their phones more than their laptops to browse the internet. If the images aren’t optimized and aren’t loading, or the content is poorly laid out, your visitor will leave. Simple as that. If you use Finalsite Composer, use the mobile device preview tool to ensure content is scannable across all devices.

“But what if they don’t read the whole thing?”  You ask.

If you’ve put a lot of thought into your headers and subheaders, so what if they don’t read in more depth? You’ve still given them what they need— and proven to them that you have the content available should they later decide to read it.

Stop Writing Boring Headlines

On average, 80% of website visitors will only read your headline. Another 20% will go on to read your entire page or article. Headlines provide you with the opportunity to both entice the reader, and let them know the information that they'll find on the page.

If you want to get your information across to millennials, you need to master the art of the headline. It’s as important as the copy itself.

HEADLINES SHOULD BE:

  • Descriptive: They should answer the question, what information will I find here?
  • Clear: Avoid ambiguity at all times.
  • Compelling: If a headline is the only thing most millennials are reading, it better be interesting!
school quote with title and symbol

TIPS FOR WRITING BETTER HEADLINES:

1. Use Keywords. Ensuring headlines have certain keywords is not only good for your performance in search, but also reaffirms a millennial that they’re in the right place.  Need a good example? Check out this blog post about affording private school written by Avon Old Farms School. We see important keywords like “how to afford” and “private school,” which are keyword terms millennials are searching for — but they make it more engaging by adding “money doesn’t grow on trees.”

Avon Old Farms headline on website

2. Write Value Propositions. A value proposition is a statement that describes the benefits students and families can expect from attending your school, and why your school is a better choice than the alternatives. Value propositions can supplement keyword headlines that are important for SEO (like “Tuition and Financial Aid.”)

3. Keep them short but make them count. Your headlines need to draw readers in. The words in H2 and H3 may be the only thing people read— they’ll keep scrolling and will only stop at the headers that pique their interest.

4. Use ethos, pathos and logos. Aristotle’s three elements of persuasion still apply— especially for subheads. You can’t be creative with page titles for SEO purposes (example: “Admissions”) but for subheaders, tug on those heartstrings! For example, The Packer Collegiate Institute fuses emotion into almost every headline, straying away from the boring and generic — even in simple cases, such as exploring campus.

Campus photo with title and description

Focus on Authenticity

It is an absolute necessity to be completely honest about who you are, especially with this generation. Millennials are a highly cynical generation with a deep mistrust of traditional advertising. Don’t think you can fool them— they see right through an inauthentic brand!  Instead, make use of real-life examples and candid moments that capitalize on your ‘product’ (your students). This will resonate with them more than a marketing spiel.

CAPITALIZE ON MILLENNIALS’ DESIRE TO SHARE

While millennials don’t always trust marketers, they do trust strangers: 93% of millennials read reviews before they make a purchase. Additionally, this skeptical group is more likely than any other generation to provide positive feedback — so why not ask them for it?

STRATEGIES FOR CURATING AUTHENTIC CONTENT

Ask your core fan-base for testimonials, whether through Facebook, on video, or over the phone.

Reuse positive online reviews from Facebook and Google on your website (with permission, of course!) to highlight authentic voices. If your online reviews aren’t stellar, Finalsite’s online review management service can help improve your ratings. A review management process can ensure you always put your best foot forward in search and on social, helping you reach new potential families, drive new website traffic, and increase enrollment and retention.

Include testimonials on interior pages, not just the homepage. Student testimonials are especially important for pages about campus life, college counseling, athletics, K-8, and the “Why Our School” section. If you visit the “Why Packer” page of The Packer Collegiate Institute’s website, you’ll find a testimonial-driven scrolling experience, with a diverse group of individuals sharing their answers to “why attend Packer?”

photos of students with testimonials

Let photos, images, and infographics drive your pages. The millennial audience would much prefer to come to conclusions on their own, rather than be “spoken to” by a school marketer whom they know is biased. 

Don’t be afraid to be informal. Too many complicated words or concepts is simply bad marketing— you want your message to be easy to read and understand. Plus, millennials are wary of content solely written by marketers or advertisers. They’ll likely interpret a more conversational approach as more “real.”

Ask faculty and staff to post reviews, or give testimonials about what’s going on in the classroom. The Pike School, for example, has a section on their homepage titled, “The secret to our students’ success” with faculty testimonials. Including faculty testimonials is critically important to engaging millennial parents, as this generation greatly cares about who is educating their child, not just where they are receiving their education.

pike school testimonial in circle with quote

Stray away from generic terms such as “3rd grade parent” or “student” in your testimonials. Of course your school’s privacy policy is important to follow, especially for schools that need to follow GDPR guidelines closely, but it will come across as fake to millennials if your testimonials don’t give either a name or a picture. Make the effort to get written permission from parents so that you can use testimonial content in full.

Adjust your tone to fit the platform. Newsletters and blogs should be more conversational, while website content should be a touch more formal.

Personalize Content When Appropriate

With 78% of Internet users reporting that they are more likely to purchase from a brand that personalizes content, and another 79% say they are only likely to engage with a brand if content is personalized based on a previous engagement, it is clear that personalized content has become an expectation. When millennials see content that is clearly aimed at them and personalized for them, they are more likely to be engage with it.

HERE ARE SOME TIPS AND STRATEGIES FOR PERSONALIZING CONTENT FOR MILLENNIAL PARENTS:

Create personas. Understanding who you are talking to among millennial parents (mom vs. dads, single moms, single dads, families where both parents work, etc.) will help you choose the content you write and share. You can learn more about creating personas in this blog post, which comes with a downloadable worksheet to help you craft personas.

Personalize Email Subject Lines. Remember that on social media, online, and in millennial inboxes, you are competing with other subscriptions to clothing stores, newspapers, blogs, and more — so you need to prove to them that the content you have is valuable to them! You have about 50 characters to stand out in an inbox, so make it count. If you are currently using Finalsite’s email marketing tool, Messages (formerly called eNotify), you can personalize your subject lines with your recipient’s name, child’s name, and a variety of other merge tags. (In addition to personalizing the subject lines, you can also add emojis to help improve open rates.)

Personalize the web experience, too. Go beyond email personalization with website personalization. Finalsite’s new personalization element allows you to serve up different website content based on web browser language and location. For boarding schools and international schools in particular, this element is useful, as you can personalize content for website visitors coming from different locations. Because we know millennials care deeply about authenticity, serving up content that is truly relevant to them will prove your school cares about getting them the right information.

Engaging Millennials with eMail Content

Because millennials are glued to their phones, they are also glued to their email — making it one of the most effective ways to reach them with important communications. However, this generation does absorb email content different than other generations, with the focus on shorter, more frequent, and more personalized email content.

HERE ARE OUR TOP STRATEGIES FOR ENGAGING MILLENNIAL PARENTS WITH EMAIL:

Put your best content at the top.  If there’s something you really need them to see and click on, it should get priority. Take it from us: In our Finalsite weekly and monthly blog digest, the majority of the clicks go to the top two blogs, and no one ever gets to the bottom.

Choose “more frequent” over “longer.” You are better off sending a weekly shorter newsletter than a long monthly email, because few people scroll all the way down. The day of the long newsletter email is over! 

Use pictures, good headlines, and a video thumbnail for more engagement. Millennials like images—a link to a YouTube video is much more likely to be clicked on if there is a thumbnail included.

Continually test your emails across all device sizes. Make sure the effort that you are putting in to make a newsletter isn’t wasted by unreliable hosting. Are your newsletters responsive? Will the parent checking his or her email on his phone see a mobile-first layout? Using Finalsite’s email marketing tool, you can preview email newsletters before they go out.

Cary Academy email newsletter on mobile device

Don’t forget to capitalize on FOMO — “Fear Of Missing Out”. Millennials are much more likely to read something that they think their peers are “in the know” about.

Millennials do care about the content and they will read it… eventually. It’s a matter of packaging it the right way. Meet your audience where they are first, and then lead them down the funnel to your products.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Leah-Mangold-Headshot

Leah is a marketing enthusiast with a background in visual journalism. She’s passionate about global communication, handwritten notes, and sole travel. When she’s not exploring new places, she’s either blogging, doodling, or dreaming about it.

  • Content Marketing
  • Marketing/Communications
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