You can spend as much time as you like penning that perfect blog post or interviewing that industry leading expert, but the numbers don’t lie: some types of content are innately more shareable than others, and there’s no point in dedicating extensive time and effort to endeavors for which a mass (or at least a dedicated) audience isn’t naturally primed to enjoy.
Don’t get me wrong. A varied content diet is key to keeping any content marketing campaign fresh — all the more so when multiple kinds of content are integrated into one for a truly dynamic and interactive experience. But that integration is really key, with more boring forms of content coasting on the tailwinds of its more interesting content partners. You can, after all, get away with a long, in-depth blog post if it’s broken up with headers and incorporates pictures, videos, games and other interactive elements.
Let’s take a deeper look at a few crafty approaches you can take to ensure your content is in its most shareable state.
1. Make it Interactive
From big corporations to that small time startup just looking to spread the word about their first product, poor content marketing too often becomes a one-way street. In some cases, this is a matter of carrying the old “YELL THROUGH THE TV AND THEY WILL BUY” advertising mentality. In others, it’s expertise-building gone wrong, with posts constructed seemingly as a vehicle for impressive – and impenetrable – jargon. Other times still, a post is itself well done, but there’s no call-to-action at the end of it, giving the reader no incentive or easy way to engage more deeply in the brand or share.
All content, no matter what form it takes, should be interactive. Take a look at this joint quiz and infographic entitled, “Medical Fix or Fraud” from Two Little Fleas as an example. Sure, this information could have been presented in a more traditional article format, but as it is, readers become a part of the experience by testing their knowledge. The inherent fun and engagement that a quiz brings makes it much more likely to be shared, as does the infographic, which itself requires readers to navigate through various choices in a “choose your own adventure” sort of approach. In the end, the same message is communicated, but interactivity makes it much more likely to stick – and spread.
2. Give Us Visuals
Excellent storytelling is key to creating shareable content, but you’ll have the greatest amount of success if you can do it visually, as humans are intuitively visual creatures. Infographics are again a great example of this – just think about how much easier it is to understand a massive global problem in infographic format as opposed to a block of statistical charts – as are photos and videos. People centric photos in particular give readers someone to identify with, while abstract photos can help set the tone for your content.
Not surprisingly, the stock photo site Shutterstock provides a good example of how to integrate videos and photos into your content on their blog. Here you see explanatory blurbs interspersed with interviews and photos, making for an entirely dynamic and compelling experience. These techniques work just as well for how-to or “get to know you” content, as it instantly puts a face to the materials and illustrates techniques.
It’s also important to note that most of the major social media sites are specifically designed to suit visual content. Just look at Pinterest and YouTube for direct examples; even the less photo-centric Facebook provides photo previews of linked content to promote clicks.
3. Make ‘Em Laugh (or Cry, or Smash Things)
As all good entertainers and advertisers know, storytelling that evokes emotions is often the most likely to compel action, engagement and sharing, especially if it’s high arousal and communicates a sense of urgency. There’s a reason, after all, that a scientific paper entitled, “A Multivariate Examination of Stomach Fat Concentration in Depressed Rats” gets read only within the academic community while something entitled, “Feeling Blue? Why Your Gut Always Seems to Know” might garner a few more shares. Good content makes readers care, whether they want to or not.
As several studies have shown, it matters little whether the emotion evoked is negative or positive, just as long as it’s evoked. The most action-inducing moments are those of amusement, inspiration, cuteness, joy, lust, illumination (having that “I can’t believe this!” moment), shock, anxiety, fear, anger and controversy.
There are countless great examples of this, but P&G’s “Thank you, mom” commercials are just about the best:
I challenge you to watch that commercial and not get choked up as the company pays tribute to all that moms do to raise their Olympic champions. The ad is identifiable and brimming with emotion, which is likely why it’s gotten more than 18 million views on YouTube so far.
So, how can you incorporate emotion into your work? Start with it as your base rather than trying to pack it on later. Determine what emotion you want to evoke from the start and let that inform every aspect of your content creation, from beginning to end.
4. Flaunt Your Stats and Quotes…But Keep it Simple
According to a study by SocialBakers, both statistics and quotes get a high number of shares on social media. This shouldn’t be surprising, as both lend a deeper air of legitimacy to the presented argument or content. Both are also snackable, allowing readers to consume the most important aspects of your post in little bites, which they can then easily add to their social media feeds. And from a content production perspective, quotes in particular are an easy way to keep things fresh on your feeds without having to do too much work.
Perhaps it’s self-evident by now, but the theme here is that the best content is the simplest. Even if it’s information rich (which it should be), it should be presented in the most concise manner possible. This is especially true when it comes to headlines, which should get right to the point without making things too convoluted. This is also what makes listicles so popular, as it forces you to condense your content down into its most essential form (and often with pictures, which really helps increase shares).
5. Integrate Multiple Kinds of Content Into One
As you can see in the Two Little Fleas example from before, today’s content is at its best when it’s got multiple forms integrated into one. In fact, it’s kind of become the industry standard; good luck creating a viral blog post without incorporating photos! While you of course don’t want to get too distracted, including a poll at the end of a post, creating a series around an infographic and doing other combos just like this are a surefire way to keep your readers interested, and more importantly, sharing.
In years past, pretty basic content could do the trick, but not anymore. In 2014, you’ve got to make yourself into your own multimedia mogul, considering emotions, crossing content formats, upping the quality of your visuals and making your content as interactive as possible. Where will you begin? Let us know in the comments below.