Attention spans have never been shorter…
…and if you want your ideas to spread, you must create sound bites.
“What’s a sound bite,” you ask?
A sound bite is a short message, often no longer than 10 words, that describes the main idea of your content or sales message.
It’s easy-to-remember, easy-to-quote, and often get shared by bloggers and by journalists.
Now how do sound bites generate web traffic, exactly?
The Art of the Sound Bite
A few weeks ago, when I wrote the article about choosing the best font, I ran a sound bite test.
Many of you may have caught it, but if you didn’t, no worries. Since you read Social Triggers, I’ll tell you all about it.
Okay, so do you remember the sound bites I included in that article?
You know, the ones where I said “size 14 is the new size 12” and “size 16 is the new size 12?”
Well, that was the test, and I was delighted with the results.
Not only did people share my sound bites, they also emailed me about them… tweeted them… and even Googled them (word for word!)
What’s this have to do with increasing blog traffic?
Well, that article was shared over 200 times on Twitter, almost 100 times on Facebook, and generated around 9,000 hits.
Not bad :-).
Now the question is why did it work?
For that, let’s dive deeper…
Why Sound Bites Win
If you fail to communicate short, clear, and memorable messages, you are at risk for:
…falling by the way side
…and becoming invisible
Harsh, I know, but that’s the reality of the world today where people get bombarded by thousands of messages each day.
That’s why sound bites are vital, and the pithier, the better.
Remember that famous sound bite from Franklin D. Roosevelt “The only thing we have to fear is – fear itself?”
Millions of other people do too :-D.
Not only are sound bites easy to recognize, they’re also easy to remember, easy-to-share, and they stand out in the sea of words found online.
And when people stumble on them, they’re more like to quote and talk about them, thus sending you more traffic!
How Can You Create Sound Bites?
Sound bites don’t happen on accident.
As a matter of fact, sound bites are often rehearsed, tested, and then delivered at opportune moments (like media interviews or presentations, for example).
As people who create content, you know the power of sound bites in your content—I showed you my results.
But how can you create sound bites that work?
That’s where these three sound bite examples come into play:
Sound Bite Example #1: The Power of Contrast
To this day, people still quote and remember John F. Kennedy’s famous sound bite “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
Why is this quote so popular?
It’s all about the contrast between the two points, and that contrast between the former and the latter, create a ‘black and white’ situation that’s easy to remember.
(Note, contrast is perfect for creating memorable web designs)
As Dr. Atkinson, the author of Speech-Making and Presentations Made Easy, said “using contrasts is a real winner. Research shows 33% of the applause a good speech gets is when a contrast is used.”
How can you create this specific type of contrast?
You’ve got to think about things in the “black and white.” You’ve got to create a dichotomy, and you’ll be good to go.
Sound Bite Example #2: The Rule of Three
You’d be hard-pressed to say you’ve never heard of the phrase “Veni, Vidi, Vici,” or as the english translation goes, “I came, I saw, I conquered.”
It’s easy to remember, and easy to quote.
The rule of three is at work. The first item creates tension, the second builds it up, and the third releases it.
And as Dr. Atkinson points out in his book “Our Masters’ Voices,” he calls these ‘claptraps’ because an audience often applauses at the completion of the third point.
But more important, our brain is hardwired to remember three items, which is why this sound bite example works so well.
To create this sound bite yourself, it’s simple. Now that you know that it exists, instead of describing ideas with two or four adjectives, you should shoot for three.
Sound Bite Example #3: Violate Expectations
For as long as you can remember, you were told that size 12 was the RIGHT size font…
…and that’s why my sound bite “Size 16 is the NEW size 12” worked so well.
It violated expectations, and thus, was easy to remember.
If you want to create a sound bite like this, you’ll just need to find something people deem true, and counteract it (assuming you can back it up).
Unfortunately, this type of sound bite is one of the toughest to create, but the best way to create ’em is to test ’em.
For example, I stumbled on my sound bite by accident when I dropped that phrase during a speaking engagement. The audience loved it, and thus I wrote it down.
And that leads me to my next point…
Now You Know About Sound Bites… You’ll likely Already Have Some
When you first learn about sound bites, you might rush to create some of your own.
And while that’s a great strategy, chances are you’ve already got some. All you gotta do is to find them in your content, presentations, and sales messages.
Now I pass it to you…
What sound bites do you plan on using in your content?
And do you plan on trying out my sound bite tweetable strategy?
I love sound bites, however I haven’t heard of “Violate Expectations” before, but I can see how this can be an effective strategy in a sound bite…. Something to think about…
Thanks for providing the value Derek!
As a writer, I think that I do this naturally. But, it’s great to be reminded just how effective sound bites can be! Thanks for the surge in motivation, Derek!
Interesting Derek, never heard this before, but makes good sense. Thanks for sharing ideas about sound bites. Good job Dude!
This is one of you better posts. Lots of detail on how we an create sound bites for our blog posts. Like headlines, creating a catchy sound bite takes some time and you’ve laid out some great ways to do so.
Derek, how do you get that nice and attractive opt-in form at the top of this page?
Derek, are you a born trainer, or did you train yourself?
I am trying this out with a motivational quote blog site that has the commercial purpose of selling vinyl stickers of the quotes. I am very interested to see how this helps as I increase in traffic.
Definitely hitting on something overlooked here, Derek. I know myself I need to go a bit more Hemingway with my writing – long and dwindling is often tedious unless you wrote it yourself 😉
Considering the jam experiment that I know you’ve referred to before, would you recommend limiting the number of sound bites in a blog post, as it can be difficult to choose what really resonated with you the most (for example, will someone tweet three sound bites from one post)? Or is it rather, the more the merrier as people will react to different things?
I haven’t been thinking on sound bites at all when writing my articles. However I did create a sound bite to keep me on task, make me more credible, and keep my intentions noble. “Talk Less, Do More, & Serve”
I do plan to start thinking more about this and monitoring this blog more often which brings me to:
Derek, How do you organize your content feeds, and how many blogs/sites are you subscribed to? I find myself sometimes missing from interesting content like this because of the overload of content that gets pushed out there.
Hey Derek, you really shared a great stuff here. Sound Bites to generate traffic wouldn’t have been something that I will have heard about if you had not shared. I read your post and my eye popped when I saw that you used the strategy to get 9,000 hits! That is massive. Got the techniques down and you bet that I am going to try in out.
I love how the universe works. The foggiest germ of this idea was floating around my head and not really going anywhere. Then, like magic, your post brings it all into focus – with examples and everything. You are amazing! Now on to try it out…
Thanks for taking the time to share this stuff!
Ahhh! Sound bites! This creates a big light bulb in my head. Your sound bite that was “violate expectations” type was really effective and it kindles the interests of many readers, me included. Thanks for sharing ideas about sound bites Derek. You are awesome!
Great stuff! I had to think for a while but then realized I have been using sound bites, more of mantras to my niche audience, when I write and speak:
“Memory + way to document that memory = scrapbooking”
“If you don’t tell your story, who will?”
“Combine products you love with photos and memories that matter.”
I’ll be using these more intentionally now- thanks!
I have to admit, you picked a PERFECT soundbite for your font post because that’s exactly what I remembered from it and what I think about every time I size up a site.
Wow, I have to say it’s weird but it worked.
My mind kept regurgitating the phrase ’14 is the new 12″ and ’16 is the new 12′ when I was writing emails and everything I did.
I changed my font sizes accordingly and started saying to anyone who questioned my new weird long and thin, large font constructed emails to stop being so narrow minded. I simply said- ‘read social triggers and then come back to me and we can talk properly’.
Nice work Derek. You continue to impress. One thing I will keep saying though is that I don’t understand why you aren’t more active on Google+. You would spread like wildfire on that super connected social conduit full of your exact audience type.
Sound advice, Derek! 🙂
Thanks for sharing your stats with us Derek! There’s an art to writing sound bites, just like there’s an art to writing headlines. Nice work.
Just stopped by after hearing about this blog on Smart Passive Income.
I have decided to speak only in sound bytes for one whole week and see what magic is unleashed.
What’s up dude?
I usually don’t let people comment as their blog name, but I’ve heard about how your real name really is Blog Tyrant :-P.
Thanks for stopping by. Hit me up sometime, and let’s talk.
Thanks for allowing the exception.
Perhaps its time to do the full name release?
What about a directory of “sound bites”?
I found this idea brilliant and an idea just popped in my mind, creating a page called like “drops of wisdom” or something similar, featuring the most tweeted “sound bites”. It may include a twit-counter and the article they were found in.
This way, I thought it would be a nice quick-start page for my new independent music blog. Combining proven, easy-to-digest wisdom & viral content.
How does it sound?
I got mine for my computer music website: “There is no best sequencer. But every sequencer is the best”.
A sequencer is a software to make music: this sentence explains that you have to find the sequencer that better adapt to your capacities, creativity and musical strategies!
A small but request if possible.
Can you give or execute one sound bite article with a different industry. I have always found web topics like programming and marketing a good candidate for vitality but other industries are hard.
Try fashion or construction.
Just started our blog and I think I am going to use this in my next tweets and even in FB and Google +. I think it is closely related to how the News is portrayed, they have little sound bites that you get you interested in a story so you tune in… However this would be shorter than that.
Thanks for a great article.
You’re welcome Preston.
I’m going to use this on my infant potty training site:
“infant potting is the NEW diaper.”
🙂 thanks Derek!!
Derek, you rock. Wonderful pointers. I don’t have any sound-bites.
But I do think in threes. I learned that in elementary school Creative Writing class. I always thought the was the coolest concept.
But I’ll not use my iPhone to spellcheck it!! 🙂
“Infant pottying is the NEW diaper.”
I thought this was a great post. It was concise, simple, and it MADE SENSE.
Is it me or are all the posts and comments in ‘strikeout’ font. Is this a new test of observations or is my browser whacked? It certainly caught my attentions as did you great post.
@kater: its ur comp
Hey it sure was! And here I thought Derek was being ubercrafty!
Seoquake toolbar setting caused the strikeouts. ‘Someone’ turned that on accidentally.
Neat little tip there, Derek.
Do you plan on implementing it?
In a post I wrote on safe withdrawal rates (economics/finance) I described how the U.S. was the “prom queen” of the economic world for the last 100 years and you can’t base future investment decisions on this historical data.
I got a lot of positive feedback on the prom queen analogy. People really noticed it.
Did you find reporters picking it up too? The whole Prom Queen analogy?
Awesome tips. I would say; “I come, I see, I comment “is the newrule for blogging;)
Say hi sometimes on my blog
“…because an audience often applauses…?”
More of a Sound Crunch there, Derek 🙂
Other than that, an excellent article. I’ll be stealing heavily from this.
And it’s not stealing.
I’m giving it to you ;-p
Rock on, Derek. A topic I haven’t seen covered too much in the community, and definitely eye-opening.
You can even see this in your friends/family:
I’ll always remember when my friend Arthur said to me: “I systematize god.” lol
That’s one of the reasons why ST is so great :-D.
I always cover things people often overlook.
Yes… short but sweet.
Dan Heath and Chip Heath call such phrases “Made to Stick,” and they really do. One (unfortunate) example was Sarah Palin’s use of the words “Death Panels” to describe a health-care proposal to allow Medicare payments to doctors for time spent conferring with patients who had terminal conditions.
Yea, politicians are the kings of using sound bites.
Great article Derek, I guess I have to start thinking about my sound bites. I am curious though how your split-test worked out, did one out-perform the other?
I didn’t split test them. I simply included both.
Ah, OK. I was thinking you split and measured which one went “more” viral.
Ah, no, not this time. Was just testing to see if people retweeted the sound bite or not.
edit edit and edit again to get to 10 words. Ain’t easy. The shortest I got it down to is 16 words! UGH! Thanks for the challenge. It’s not easy…but will be worth it.
1. A viral video is watched once or twice for entertainment purposes; a helpful video series continually brings customers back for more.
2. How to have success with social video? You Listen, You Produce, You Repeat!
It doesn’t NEED to be 10 words… that’s just a rule of thumb. 16 probably works too.
Thanks for an awesome blog post (as always). Sound bytes remind me of word bytes, which I guess would be the same thing, just a different name? They all add up to power prose: messages that cut out the fat and hit right to the bone.
As always, thanks for the insight 😀
You’re right Olle… just one note. Not that I’m a stickler for grammar or spelling, but it’s actually “bites” not “bytes.”
I made that same mistake too, and I had to Google it.
Why, of course!
However, I was referring to a great book on the topic, written by one of my professors at university:
(No affiliate link; it’s just a great book!). Thought you might be interested – do check it out =)
I came up with a good one once.
I co-wrote a children’s play where I played the Wicked Witch. My famous-est of lines was, “Mirror, Mirror, in my hand, show me the maiden where she is!” I can’t remember how many times I’ve been quoted by all the kids who came to see that play.
To bad I can’t use that one for my marketing strategies. 😉
Great post yet again Derek!
Nice Rachel, and thank you!
Dan Zarrella has a similar concept for presenters, which is the slide with a sub-140 character takeaway.
I tried this at my last preso at Pubcon. I went back through my deck and added a few blank slides with short takeaways. Sure enough, they got tweeted more than any other content. If the phrase is catchy, like some of the above sound bites, so much the better. I don’t have any data, but I would expect the pass-along rate (retweets, etc.) to be higher in that case.
Nice post, Derek!
I would beckon that you’re right.
When I say size 16 is the new size 12, during a presentation, I almost always follow with a call to action to tweet it.
And sure enough, people do.
This is great advice & I can’t wait to try it out to see how it works for me. I love that you gave three different types of examples to try…contrast, rule of 3, & violate expectations. It will be interesting to see which works best! Thanks again!
I always enjoy how you help us focus on the simplistic or often overlooked gems in communicating a message effectively in today’s digital world. Simple, Succinct, Strong.
Thank you as always for the great insight. =)
Simple ideas for big wins!
Loved the font example. I included a sound bite here: http://goinswriter.com/get-message-heard/
I write entire posts full of sound bites. It’s the only way to communicate in a world where attention is sparse.
Writing short sentences is always a win for the internet.
Great post, Derek. I tried this once and ALSO added an extra little “Tweet this” option below my sound byte. It was a cool little way to share the phrase they found impactful.
Basically, the little piece of code allowed users to tweet only the sound byte instead of the usual tweet about the post and with a @mention of my twitter account.
Gave my twitter account a nice little boost and allowed people to spread my sound byte easily.
Thanks for the post.
What’s funny is that I forgot to include a sound bite in my article about sound bites. Meta fail.
Thanks Derek. Great stuff.
You’re welcome, and glad you enjoyed it Mark.
Wow Derek, this is completely new to me but makes good sense. Going to read the article again now. Thanks for this!
That’s why you read this site, after all. You don’t hear the same ole stuff 😀
Very interesting. I am going to use this when I launch my plugin and see if it makes a difference.
Let me know how it works out.
Ooh, as usual, this post is money. In case I haven’t told you lately-you’re a freaking star, Derek 🙂
Since my product is Tighter in 10 Days, in the vein of your “Size 16 is the new Size 12″…I like “Tight is the new skinny”
You were also right about having some already in your content, I have been talking about creating “tighter, leaner and sexier bodies” which adheres to your rule of 3. I also put this mantra into a blog post last week “Because I doubt is why I must”…and some people did retweet that. I’ll take a deeper look into my existing content for more, thanks!!
Thanks Liz, and glad to see you’ve got some. I do like that catch phrase of Tighter is the new skinny, too.
Derek, you are the Eric Berne of Social Triggers!
In today’s economy paying hundreds of dollars, both up front and monthly to market your business online is ludicrous. Pay per Performance is what counts.
Will that work?
Who is Eric Berne? Should I know who that is?
The father of transactional analysis, author of Beyond Games and Scripts. An excerpt from that book called Games People Play is a great book to read about the social interaction of what some people would consider normal, but they are actually playing games in order to “push your buttons”, so to speak. I read the latter several times a few years back and it was quite helpful.
*edit* Instead of linking to a sentence, just share the sentence in the comments. It’s better for usability.
Point well taken, thanks Derek.
Niccce! Time to add more sound bite in my content.
Got any ideas on how you plan on using it?
Another Home Run Derek!
I have been wracking my brain on a campaign for a client and your post has helped me find some focus for our message. I’m going to work on some sound bites immediately. I’ll keep you posted on the results. Thanks again.
Looking forward to seeing what you come up with Randall.
i wish you could include examples which are relating to other industries like fashion, manufacturing
I’ve been making a list of action items for myself in prep for my first real authority site (okay, my first blog of any kind) and this article helps a lot.
The very first sound bite that came to mind was something I’ve said for years and years: “It’s not the content, it’s the method.” The reverse works too. Has to be in context with something though. Doesn’t stand on it’s own.
I’d like to suggest something for Social Triggers readers. We all say clever things at one point or another in our lives. Most of us pause briefly to ponder it, then move on.
I challenge you to starting keeping a log of them. Write them down, enter them in a smart phone, or something. But, keep up with them. You’ll be AMAZED!
Somehow this reminds me of one of my own sound bites.
I teach ‘zouk’ dance classes and near the end of the first course, when my students they have a concept of styling vs technique, I tell them about “it is not WHAT you do, but HOW you do it”.. is what matters.
I noticed that they tend to remember that particular sentence as long as I have been teaching now.
Most sound bites are not complete on their own. Usually need the color around it for it to make complete sense.
Fabulous Job Derek!
Really useful points…
Thanks man. Glad you’re enjoying the content here.
“Derek Halpern is the new Darren Rowse”
I’d say “Derek Halpern is the Frank Kern of Blogging”
That’s a good one! 🙂
Brilliant Derek! I haven’t tried sound bites yet, but I have been using click to tweet and prepping two quotes from my articles so my readers can tweet it easily …and the results have been phenomenal. This is next on my to do list, thanks for the great advice!
Awesome Erin. Click to Tweet is great, and in hind sight, I’m not sure why I didn’t include a sound bite in my sound bite article, heh.
There is always next week! Well I tried it out, I did it. I regret it. I thanked it. That was my sound bite of my last post and a click to tweet. More people chose it and retweeted it than the other click to tweet option I had up, thanks for the fab idea Derek!
Yay! I was one of the few who noticed the sound bite on your fonts post 🙂
Great job like always Derek. Ive been trying this already on my blog, but I never knew there was a name for it!
What’s an example of a sound bite you used?
The sound bite I used was “The best link builders are pioneers.”
It’s in this post here if you’re wondering how it’s used in context: http://pointblankseo.com/link-building-pioneer
I understand it doesn’t meet any of the criteria of the first 3 examples, but the reason I think mine is still effective is it creates curiosity for those who have not read the post. Also, it helps when the subject is one that a lot of people want to know about, because as you know, people want to know how others build links (just take Pat’s backlink strategy post for example – 1,000+ comments).
I’m curious; what do YOU think of my sound bite?
I think that’s a little too vague, but it could work.