How long do you have to capture someone’s attention in a digital message? In person, you have about eight seconds. But we can read 4x as fast as we can listen to someone speaking. So online, you have just about 2 seconds. How long is 2 seconds?

Exactly the time it takes them to read this sentence.

About ten words.

That’s the bad news.

The good news?

Since most email and social messages are read on mobile devices, people primarily encounter you and your message in the form of a mobile notification preview. Guess what the average length of a mobile notification is? Yup. About ten words. About 2.5 seconds of reading. #Perfect.

Changing what you type in those first ten words, and changing how you optimize the power of your preview, will change everything. Your opens, your replies, your connection acceptance rate, how persuasive your message is, the tone you set for your digital exchange—EVERYTHING. My team and I have tested hundreds of messages for sales efficacy, and this is the most important area to improve to bump the ROI of your outreach.

If you are finding people aren’t responding to your connection requests or messages the way you want them to, or maybe that they aren’t responding at all, your first step is to stop blowing your preview opportunity. How? Immediately stop opening with the following three sentences:

1) Hi Name, How are you? Hope you are having a great week.

If you’ve begun a message to someone you don’t know very well with “Hey, Erin. Hope you’re having a great week. Blah, blah, blah…”, you’ve just totally wasted the most powerful, precious real estate that exists. Yes, those niceties are critical in person, on the phone or in a video conference—it would be rude to just jump in without any rapport building! But the mindset of your audience in person versus the mindset of your audience on digital is completely different. In person, I am committed to that moment and am interested in engaging with you. On digital, I am trying to get through all of the messages, hammering all of my inboxes so I can hurry up and get back to living my life.

If I don’t recognize your Sender name, I know you don’t honestly care how my week is going—I know you want to sell me something. Do you really expect me to sit down and type out a response to how I’m doing? No! Because you and I both know you don’t care about that either!

You have just ten words to stand out from social sales spam and STOP THE SCROLL. If you want someone to stop scrolling through a bunch of crappy messages and stop on yours, ditch the niceties. While they are polite, appropriate and necessary in person, they are a waste of precious preview space online.

2) Hi Name, I’m reaching out because I thought you might be interested in XYZ.

After the greeting and BS niceties, 90% of all cold messages begin with the same word. Can you guess what it is? The word “I”.

90% of the people I don’t know who write to me on LinkedIn, Facebook, email and other digital platforms all lead with themselves. They are starting off our non-existent relationship by putting themselves first. They are assuming I care about them on any level—I don’t. They are also assuming they know what I may be interested in which, from that first sentence, I can see is not true. In any universe, why would I want to open a generic, seemingly self-centered, uninspired sales preview like this?

My inbox is bombarded with so many messages like this that it’s gotten to a point where, if I don’t recognize the sender and see the word “I” in the email preview, I scroll right on by. Hence my current unopened message count:

On a secondary note, junior professionals are 4x more likely to use “I” in their digital communications than senior managers and executives. Most times, you can delete yourself while still getting your message across.


“I just wanted to let everyone know we’ll be meeting in the blue conference room instead today so when I set up the room I can be sure I have enough seats for everyone.”


“In light of today’s expanded group size, please meet in the blue conference room so there are enough seats for everyone.”

Challenge yourself to delete “I think/I know/I wanted to” and similar phrases. Your reader knows you are thinking, knowing or wanting—why else would you be writing?
Once you pay attention to this “I” epidemic and start deleting it in your messages, you’ll experience a dramatic difference in the responses your communication elicits.

3) Hi (name), My name is X, and I work for X.

The other day, I got an email from someone who opened by introducing herself as working for a PR firm like this:

“Hi, Erin, I hope you are having a great week. My name is X; I am the Co-Founder of X public relations agency.”

From the message preview, I thought that she was just going to say, “We’re hoping that you would need PR services for your clients,” or another similar sales pitch to hire them for PR.


The next week, I got a second message from the same person. This time she changed her opening line to:

“Socialite Agency’s CEO would be the perfect expert guest for our weekly podcast—interested?”

Much better.

If she had just led her first email with a proper noun that got my attention (Socialite Agency CEO)—if she had led with something related to me and not her—there wouldn’t have been any risk of deletion. Because her preview was wasted with niceties and “I”s, it was almost a completely botched opportunity. I can see what your name is from the Sender field, and I didn’t ask where you worked. Why waste the preview with a sentence that does nothing to persuade me to open it?

How powerful are your previews? Head to your ‘sent’ folder and scroll through the previews of your last few messages. If you received that exact message from a stranger, would you lean in…or scroll on by?

Erin Gargan is CEO of Socialite Agency and the best-selling author of “Digital Persuasion: Sell Smarter in the Modern Marketplace” available here on Amazon. Erin helps sales, marketing, and event professionals attract attention, increase influence and sell smarter in the modern marketplace. To hire Erin to speak at your next event or help your sales team with their digital communication visit

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