I’m going to be honest.
Myself and Justin Scott are having a newsletter writing competition.
We set out to write 7 newsletters in 7 days to have a backlog.
I even took it a step further and have been recording 7 YouTube videos day by day.
Today’s writing fell on a busy day, I was preparing Sprint curriculum calls.
So… I copy pasted this directly from Digital Economics (it’s less than 1% of what’s in there).
In my eyes, it is one of the most important skills you can master: persuasive communication.
That way, people actually share your writing (meaning you actually grow on social media).
As a bonus, I’ve included a download link to a PDF (no email required) with what we discuss in this letter.
I would highly encourage you have it open while writing content.
It includes the 10 Koemmandments of Engagement and 32 post structures you can emulate – my personal swipe file.
Let’s dive in:
People don’t remember what you say, they remember how you make them feel.
This is worth repeating:
Humans are emotional beings, not logical.
99% of the population have not developed themselves to the point of being free from — or in control of — their ego.
That is the foundation of capturing and holding attention.
Poking your reader’s ego.
Feeding it = making them feel “good.”
Starving it = making them feel “bad.”
If you can take people on an emotional journey of love, hate, excitement, deceit, calmness, and any other emotion that eventually ends in a benefit for their life — you have mastered the art of content creation.
Life is story.
Song is story (Uni-verse, one song).
Architecture, music, plant life, and everything else follow the Universal principles of highs/lows creation/destruction growth/death etc.
Humans make sense of the world in stories.
Your job is to use the power of word to make people feel something.
Stories mimic the natural highs and lows of emotion.
Before we start:
The Art Of Focus (my book) is available for pre-order.
(This isn’t a normal book launch, it is expensive, and for good reason.)
The paperback will release after the 2000 available copies of the Keepsake Edition sell out.
Dan’s 10 Koemmandments Of Capturing Attention
As you are scrolling through social media or just reading content in general — try to keep an eye out for these tactics being used. That is the best way to solidify this information in your head. Notice when your attention is being captured and question “why.”
There are many ways to capture attention. I’ve found these to be the most replicable and practical (number 8 is the most important):
1) Specific Numbers
Using numbers in your hooks, headlines, or tweets will make people stop to see what the numbers relate to.
These can be in the form of:
- Statistics — “There are 7 billion people on this earth”
- Dollar amounts — “Apples new $1175 iPhone has this new feature”
- Metrics — “I sent 322 cold emails” or “After 293 days…”
- Lists — “7 bad habits that are preventing you…”
The more specific the number is, the more it catches people’s attention.
If you can’t make it super specific, that’s fine. Don’t stress it.
Here’s an example from me that was the deciding factor in many people joining Digital Economics (my course):
2) Pattern Interrupts
A pattern interrupt is something that breaks people out of their normal conditioned patterns.
If someone is scrolling on X and is used to a lot of political commentary, a well-formatted list tweet will make them stop their scroll.
Most of the things in this list are pattern interrupts.
3) Negativity Bias
The human brain is wired to remember and pay attention to negativity.
This does not mean you have to be negative all the time.
It means you need to use the negative forms of words.
If you are saying something positive, but the point is better illustrated in its negative form, use that.
“You are going to achieve great things.”
“You will never hit rock bottom again.”
The second is most potent. We remember negativity. It is the most relatable aspect of many people’s lives.
It can still be a positive message while leveraging the reader’s negativity bias.
4) Group Callout
This is simple, call out the specific person you are talking to.
- If you are in your 20’s…
- Calling all creators, coaches, and freelancers!
- Fathers are a gift to humankind…
Even if your audience doesn’t fall into the specific group you are calling out, it will allow them to “pick a side” and compare themselves to what you are saying.
I talked about bodybuilders the other day. Even if people don’t consider themselves one, it helps paint a picture that they can relate to:
If someone talks about being a father, I can still relate because I will be a father one day. I will still pay attention to and take the advice.
This also works when it comes time to promote. You can call out exactly who the promotion is for and paint a picture of the problems they are struggling with.
5) Problem Callout
Calling out the pains or problems people are experiencing will also make them relate to the post.
MOST people have encountered the same problem or pain as everyone else throughout their life.
If you can describe the feeling accurately, you have attention at your fingertips.
You don’t have to be dead on with this. Simply describing pain points will have people trying to relate their experiences to it. If they can relate, they will engage.
Here’s an example of calling out a pain as simple as “feeling terrible:”
6) Potential Benefit
The opposite of calling out a problem. Again, pains and benefits. Your mind needs to think in pains and benefits. That is your unique “why” behind whatever “what” or “how” you are writing about.
7) Social Proof
Again this is authoritative and implies an information gap.
When you flex your results or credentials, people automatically assume that you know more than them. They will take your content more seriously and read to find the information they are “missing.”
This works 100x better when it isn’t viewed as a “flex.”
Justin Welsh is the current king of this:
Use social proof to illustrate a point you are trying to make.
8) Confidence & Conviction
This is by far the most important point here.
You can create highly impactful posts with confidence alone — it allows other aspects of attention-grabbing to fall into place.
You are right about everything at this very point in time in relation to your goals, vision, beliefs, values, and everything else that forms your perspective of reality.
Your job is to have confidence and conviction in your beliefs and a credible or clear argument to back them up (if you have to).
Everyone is on social media to be told what to do in a confident way. Nobody is secure in their actions, choices, and beliefs. They are looking for someone to confirm them with confidence and give them that clarity to act.
Tools you can use to sound more confident:
- Eliminate words that imply uncertainty
- Speak in absolutes when possible
- Exaggerate your point to add energy
Of course, do not abuse these for the sake of engagement.
Rather than saying:
“It may be wise if some people developed their skillset.”
“It is crucial that everyone on planet earth develops their skill set.”
Just by being confident, the words flow easier and the writing is more impactful.
I can go on to back that argument up with statistics or more creative firepower that I have in my mind.
Here is an example of me being confident in what I was saying:
This tweet got featured in a big newsletter and sparked a lot of controversy.
People were arguing whether or not it was the “greatest” skill. Some were proposing what their greatest skill was.
This made people comment and quote tweet, leading to more engagement and impressions.
I wrote this tweet in the moment when I had executed on an idea quickly. Doing that gave me a lot of joy, so I wanted to share that joy with others. It worked.
Is it 100% correct? No.
Was it 100% correct when I wrote it, through my perspective, relating to my personal experience?
Yes. At the time I was 100% convinced that that was the greatest skill.
I went on to add nuance in the replies. If I had added nuance in the actual tweet, it wouldn’t have done as well and opened up the opportunity to be featured in a big newsletter.
The people YOU want to attract aren’t the people that “hate” on your work.
Here is one other — a bit more extreme — example. Can you sense the motivational and practical energy “flowing through the screen?”
By the way, these types of high-energy advice posts pull in quite a bit of followers.
In summary — have some conviction behind what you are saying. This is not a skill that needs to be trained. It’s just a matter of writing the words in the most impactful way. Leaders don’t dance around the point they are trying to get across.
9) Active Voice
Active voice implies that there is a story. It eases people into what you are saying.
Passive voice is often boring and gives away the “mini-story” too early. There is no anticipation that makes people want to figure out what happened next.
When you are practicing writing posts, look up an article on active voice and use it to edit until you get the hang of it.
This also helps with being perceived as confident.
10) Warnings & Cautionary Advice
What should people look out for when they are trying to achieve something?
Can you warn them of something they will encounter as they are trying to reach where you are now?
When you are doing your weekly reflection, or just reflecting on your life, what roadblocks can you help people navigate?
This is best illustrated with this tweet. I hit on a hot topic like dopamine and warned them of another hot topic (then wrapped it up with confidence).
This sparked a LOT of controversy, but I have research to back up that point AND gave nuance in the replies to build a deeper connection with my audience:
What Holds Attention?
Once the curiosity loop is opened, the mind feels committed to figuring out the rest of the story.
That is what holds attention — crafting a compelling story.
Stories are layers of metaphors, concepts, perspectives, and experiences that take people on a journey.
People want to understand the entire story. They want to know what came before, during, and after any given event (from capturing attention).
Here are 2 things to keep in mind when it comes to holding attention:
We aren’t in high school anymore. Long, professional paragraphs don’t matter and reduce readability. Especially on X — people log on to that platform to escape the professional world.
How do you improve the structure of all of your content?
- Bullet lists — use numbers, bullets, and other tactics that help you break apart what you are saying. These lists create a “story” in themselves.
- Line breaks — use line breaks whenever possible, but don’t just add line breaks for the sake of it. Be creative. Use line breaks to emphasize specific sentences and help your writing flow.
- Starting short and concise — Use shorter sentences or paragraphs at the start of your content. Capture attention with short and punchy statements, then let loose and get creative with how your sentences flow.
- Break apart sentences — use parenthesis and “—” dashes over commas. This sentence is too long (until I make people want to know what are in these parenthesis).
Here is an example of all of the above in one hook:
2) Novel Perspectives
This requires you to get the bulk of your ideas from books, podcasts, or other longer-form content that gives more nuance to certain ideas.
Novelty increases dopamine levels in the brain. It brings more clarity to an idea that has been talked about over and over.
If you are getting all of your content from Twitter while trying to grow on Twitter — you will probably end up with the same perspective as everyone else.
Metaphors, personal experiences, and creating new concepts is how you achieve this.
This will be our prime focus in future modules, so hold tight on this for now (but keep it in mind so you can start making connections as you consume).
I was reading an article, learned about how a glass of water can create an acre of fog, and applied it to one of my sub-topics — mindfulness.
Content consumption (or research) is important. Specifically books, audiobooks, podcasts, or articles. Those will give you different perspectives on the things you love talking about.
What Creates Engagement?
Remember: People don’t remember what you say, they remember how you make them feel.
Alan Watts may have been an alcoholic in his later years and cheated on his wives — which I have my own opinions about — but his work has changed my life for good. It gives me inspiration, clarity, and a new outlook on life.
I may remember some quotes of his, but the reason I remember them is because of the clarity they gave me. The feeling of having zero worries in the world. When I want to experience that again, I throw on an Alan Watts lecture.
YOU are but a humble messenger of a life-changing message.
1) The feelings that come from education.
Learning something new or gaining clarity on some aspect of their life raises dopamine levels in the brain.
You create clarity through novel perspectives, metaphors, stories, personal experiences, and other parts of your life that will help others understand what you are saying.
Your job is to “make sense” to a specific group of people.
You do this by sharing how certain topics make sense to you.
2) The feelings that come from inspiration.
Inspiration is different from motivation.
You are helping people connect the dots on their own, giving them the clarity to make their own decisions and change their behavior.
People feel good when they think they came up with the answer themselves — but will still attribute that feeling to you.
3) The feeling that comes from entertainment.
Can you throw in a joke, meme, or interesting point of view?
When you watch a movie, you are entertained through humor, drama, emotional parts of the story, and battles that spark excitement in you.
Entertainment, education, and inspiration are the main goals of your content.
I hope you enjoyed this one.
If you want to become a digital writer who controls the outcome of their life through the internet, check out read more in the Digital Writer series.
P.S. The Art Of Focus is available for pre-order.
The hardcover book, the revamped physical planner, a keepsake coin, an invitation to in-person events, a private community, and more.