skip to content

The one-sentence test to make your content more interesting

Crafting attention-grabbing titles, thumbnails, or descriptions can feel like trying to solve a complicated puzzle. In Chapter 7, you'll hear about the one-sentence test that makes it simple to determine if you've got a scroll-stopping piece of content.

Let’s do a mental exercise. You bump into a friend on the subway you’ve been meaning to invite to a charcuterie party because you know she’s all about the charcuterie. For some reason, she doesn’t have a cell phone or any other way to get in touch, so this is your one chance to make the invitation. 

Just before she steps off the train, you blurt out, “Hey! I’m hosting a party tomorrow at 7 pm. You’re welcome to come.” She starts walking toward the door and says, “Thanks. What’s the occasion?” You maybe have a few seconds to convince her to show up.

Your success depends on whether you can give an answer that piques your friend’s interest in the space of one sentence. In this case, simply shouting the word “charcuterie” would probably do the trick. 

This one-sentence test can be used on any piece of content you make. 

  • Can you sum up, in a sentence or maybe two, the most interesting thing about it? 

  • If you were to share that sentence with someone in your target audience, would they stop to read, watch, or listen to what you’ve created? 

The reality is, when someone comes across your content, they’re making snap judgments and decisions about whether or not something is interesting enough to merit their time and attention. You have a tiny window to convince them that what you’re offering is worth consuming before they move on.

The thing you’re offering could be “learn how to do XYZ” with a how-to article, “relax and hear interesting or inspiring ideas” with a podcast episode, or “literally roll on the floor laughing” with a video comedy sketch. 

In Chapter 5, you learned about audience research and how to look for the real words and phrases people use to describe their problems and struggles.

If you use that language as a part of the offer you’re making in your titles, subject lines, thumbnails, and descriptions, and if you’re concise enough to communicate your offer within the small window of time you’re afforded, you’ll have a much easier time earning your audience’s attention.

Let’s check out some real examples of this idea in action.

Capture your audience’s attention with Instagram reels

Em Connors is an online course creator and marketing coach who shares tons of Canva tips through Instagram. We’re going to check out one of her Instagram reels and see if we can spot some of the things she did to make her offer interesting.

First, she uses elements that identify the target audience:

  • The Canva logo, so you know immediately that this has to do with Canva

  • The word “reel” is an Instagram-specific format

If I’m a person who uses Canva and is also trying to make content on Instagram, I know right away this is probably relevant to me.

She also addresses a pain point by saying “transform any graphic into a reel.” A pain point is a specific struggle or problem someone is experiencing. Here, Em is appealing to anyone with the pain point of wanting to make video graphics but not knowing how or not having the time to animate.

During the reel, Em says, “Here's how to turn any social media graphic that you have already made in Canva into a reel in about two seconds.”

Just in the first few seconds, Em has already indicated some kind of value to the viewer. Value could have to do with time, money, or even energy.

So when she says “graphic that you have already made in Canva” you might think ‘Nice! I don’t have to spend the extra time or energy making something from scratch.’ And then she says “in about two seconds.” You’re telling me I can do this in less time than it’s taking for me to ask this question?

Let’s check out another example.

Pique interest with email subject lines and video titles

Jay Clouse is a creator educator who runs The Lab, an online community for creators, conducts creator interviews on his Creative Elements podcast, and shares his insights and experience through his Creator Science newsletter.

We’re going to look at two things from Jay, an email subject line , and a companion YouTube video title.

This email subject line comes out of the gate strong with “$200K per month” communicating value to the reader. That’s followed by something surprising… “coloring book empire?”

What this subject line is really saying is “If this business can earn $200,000 per month, maybe yours can too.”

The video title does something similar, mentioning $200K per month and the surprising “Coloring Book Empire,” but first it identifies the subject as a YouTuber.

If you’re a YouTuber with a type of business you’re pretty sure will never earn $200K per year, let alone per month, this is instantly intriguing.

Jay knows that his audience is full of people who are trying to build a business and make an income from their creative work, and these examples do a fantastic job of appealing to those interests.

For the next example, let’s look at some YouTube thumbnails.

Create YouTube thumbnails that stand out

Asha Downes runs a brand called Naturally High Hair, where she takes a scientific approach to help people with 4C and similar types of hair grow long hair naturally.

Let’s take a look at the thumbnail for one of her videos.

When looking at a sea of thumbnails, we tend to notice faces before we notice anything else. In her thumbnail, Asha shares a before and after picture showing her hair growth progress. And in case it wasn’t clear that this was before and after, she also includes the dates.

If you’re a person with a similar hair type, struggling to grow your hair longer naturally, this before and after might be interesting enough to get you to click.

Asha doesn’t stop there. She reinforces the offer with text saying “Do this for longer 4C hair!”

This makes it clear that the purpose of the video is to explain how she went from the hair length in her before photo to her after photo.

I want to note another great thing Asha did. She uses photos of herself instead of a client or stock photo, which adds a touch of authenticity. It gives the video a greater sense of credibility and helps the audience put more trust in what she has to say.

Now let’s hop from YouTube over to Twitter and check out the beginning of a well-crafted Twitter thread .

Keep readers engaged on Twitter

A lot of Khe Hy’s work centers around helping creative entrepreneurs take a more healthy and effective approach to productivity, which is the aim of the first tweet in a recent Twitter thread he posted.

The first tweet of a Twitter thread is a bit of a mix between a title and a description. It’s what someone uses to decide whether or not to continue reading the thread, but you also have more characters to work with than your typical title.

Khe opens with a list of productivity techniques. People who are working to be more productive will probably recognize these techniques right away.

He then follows with “You’ve probably tried one of these productivity frameworks.” At this point, some are nodding their heads yes and others are thinking, ‘No, actually I’ve tried all of them.”

He continues, “The problem? They all have flaws.” Now it’s getting interesting. If you’re a person who’s tried some of these productivity frameworks and gotten suboptimal results, this statement does two things:

  1. It says “they” have flaws, which implies that if something didn’t work for you, it’s not because you failed but because of the flaws in the framework. What a relief!

  2. It makes you curious about what those flaws might be.

He finishes the opening tweet with “Let me show you what these [flaws] are (and a better alternative)”.

So if you’re a person who’s struggled to succeed using these techniques, you feel some relief that maybe it’s not you and you’re curious to read about the “better solution” Khe is offering.

I want to call out a small, but cool thing Khe does with this tweet. Even though it’s only text, the tweet was composed with the visual in mind. Look at the list again. It could be put in any order, but it’s written in order of shortest to longest number of characters. This makes it visually interesting and attracts your attention even before you know the contents of the text.

Now we’re going back to YouTube for our final example.

Grab attention with targeted and descriptive language

Jonathan and Ashley Longnecker of Tiny Shiny Home have a two-hour-long video on their YouTube channel where they document the process of building a solar shed. Their offer is showing people how they built a solar shed through behind-the-scenes footage, but they’re also offering entertainment. This is already pretty intriguing right from the start, but do I really want to spend two hours watching this?

Here are some techniques they use to make their offer interesting.

Let’s start with the video title: Family Builds Incredible Earthbag Solar Shed Office! | Full Movie Documentary Timelapse

There are a couple of really interesting attention-grabbing things they’ve done with the title.

First, they use targeted language. The words “Family”, “Earthbag”, and “Solar Shed” are appealing to a very specific audience. They would catch the attention of the target audience right away.

Second, they use descriptive language to set expectations for the audience. Using the words “documentary” and “timelapse” make it clear what style of content the audience can expect to see.

Now let’s take a look at the first couple of sentences of the description: 

  • Family of 6 builds hyperadobe solar shed office/guest room with zero experience. 

  • 11 months of hard work condensed into just 2 hours for your viewing pleasure.

Right away, they use even more targeted language, “Family of 6”. This also adds intrigue and causes the audience to ask “how?” or “why?” and to crave the answers to those questions.

In this example, “Family of 6” and “zero experience” are especially intriguing. How did a family of 6 do this with zero experience? I have to know!

Finally, they use value language, “11 months in two hours”, to tell the audience that they get to experience 11 months' worth of work in a fraction of the time. They also tag on “viewing pleasure,” asserting that watching the documentary is going to be a pleasing experience.

If you’re a person who’s interested in homesteading or building a solar shed and has a couple of hours of free time, this video title and description are probably enough to convince you that watching this video will scratch your DIY itch.

These are just a handful of examples of how matching what you offer in your content to what you’ve learned from your audience research can make your content interesting enough to earn your audience’s time and attention. 

If you did this with every piece of content, you’d be head and shoulders above most of what’s out there. But what if we took this idea even further? What if your content wasn’t just interesting, but irresistible?

In the next lesson, we’re going to check out more creator examples and discover how we can use an irresistible angle to make content that people will flock to.

Next chapter

Finding your irresistible angle

When you think about the kind of content that makes you drop everything to read, listen, or watch, there’s something about it that’s hard to resist. In Chapter 8, we’ll explore examples of unique angles creators have taken with their content, and what makes their content irresistible.

Start reading →