What makes some content marketing irresistible, while the bulk of stuff you see every day is easily forgotten? Have you ever stopped to analyse what you choose to read, comment on and share versus what you choose to ignore?
Here’s a good example – the “hot mugshot guy” used in this post should be very familiar to you. Why? Because Jeremy Meeks shot to fame two weeks ago when the Stockton police department posted a photo of him on Facebook after arresting him on a serious weapons charge.
The image quickly went viral with hundreds of thousands of likes, comments and shares and the story was picked up by every major newspaper, radio and cable TV program across North America (and in many other countries). He now has two major modelling agencies chasing him to sign a contract.
Now Jeremy’s mugshot is not particularly fascinating, earth shattering, important or even relevant to the lives of most of us, yet somehow, this simple Facebook post unwittingly outperformed almost every other news story on the day it broke. It had the “je ne sais quoi” that is required for content marketing to go viral on a global scale.
And if you think about it, there are lessons that we can take from this story (and other successful posts like it) to boost the persuasive power of our own content marketing so that it inspires and ignites both passion and action among our readers and customers.
Contagious: What Makes Things Catch On?
What was it about the last piece that you read or saw – whether it be an article, photo, advertisement, content marketing or video – that took it from mildly interesting and elevated it to the realm of positively sharable?
As you no doubt suspect, content marketing that has the potential to go viral can be a huge asset to you for two reasons – it feels great to make it and it can bring lots of attention to what you’re doing to solve real problems for your customers. Unfortunately, if no one sees your content marketing, it’s not really that useful to anyone.
Content may be King, but you will be the Lord of a very small domain if you are still reaching only one hundred people next week with your valuable message. Here are my Top 5 Tips to magnify the chance of your message reaching hundreds of thousands based on neuroscience, behavioral science and the success of the most popular posts on Linkedin.
- Lists Work
Ironically, I read a post last week where the author lamented the overuse of articles titled “The Top 5 Tips”, “21 Secrets To” etc. He postulated “why do so many authors write posts with lists”? A quick bit of research on my part revealed that the Top three articles in the past few months on Linked in (in terms of readers, shares and comments) were all list based posts:
- 10 Simple Concepts to Become a Better Leader, Dave Kerpen .
- 6 Toxic Behaviours That Push People Away: How To Recognize Them in Yourself and Change Them, Kathy Caprino
- The #1 Career Mistake Capable People Make, Greg McKeown
In fact, nine of the top ten were list based articles. But could this just be a coincidence?
In-depth research by Buzzsumo supports this phenomenon. Buzzsumo analysed over one hundred million articles online and concluded that lists and infographics were more likely to be shared virally than any other content. Love them or hate them, lists outperform how to articles, videos, explanatory posts and other content marketing in terms of shares and comments. Done correctly, a good list post will provide hands-on, practical tips that you can put into practice today.
One of the vital elements that is believed to cause a list to spread, is its level of “practical utility,” as described by a recent study By Berger and Milkman (University of Pennsylvania – Wharton School of Business. The ability to use and apply the information contained in a post is a key element that drives content to spread virally. In effect, the list creates a memory inducing trigger.
Essentially, we tend to share what we’re thinking about—and we only think about the things we can actually remember. Lists make it easy for our brains to grasp, remember and file away valuable information for safe keeping and retrieval. They convey the content you are about to read contains a nice packet of useful, easy-to-digest information that you can share with others to add value and create dialogue.
- A Good Picture is Still Worth a Thousand Words (and Ten Thousand Shares)
Neuroscience has proven that your brain is a highly visual beast. Somewhere between 80% and 90% of brain activity is associated with making sense of visual stimuli, and the brain processes these visual stimuli much more quickly—about 40 times more quickly—than it does auditory stimuli.
This makes perfect sense when you think about the role that visual cues played in the survival of our ancient ancestors—particularly the way in which the old brain reacted quickly to keep our cavemen ancestors out of the jaws of tigers and mammoths. The old brain is extraordinarily fast at processing these visual cues, “seeing” them in only 2–3 milliseconds and reacting to them almost instantaneously.
In sharp contrast, it takes your new brain (or neocortex) a relatively snail-paced 500 milliseconds to process the exact same visual data. Since humans cannot rely on the slow processing speed of the new brain, you are hardwired to make decisions and take action at the old brain level that are mostly based on visual input and instinctual responses. Your neocortex kicks in much later in the process to help you find data, proof, and justification for the gut decision you have already made.
This of course makes visual imagery one of the most powerful triggers you can harness and use to your advantage when creating content. As they say, a picture really is worth a thousand words. However, not all pictures are created equal. The visuals you use in your content must mean something to the old brain of your prospect—they must have a “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM) message and they must stimulate a strong emotional response. A well crafted story or a sharp picture that captures the essence of your reader’s most pressing source of pain, holds the power to trigger a wave of comments and shares.
And as you might expect, the Top 3 posts on Linkedin all used strong graphics to convey a quick emotional response and draw readers in. The most successful, the article by Dave Kerpen also cleverly utilized a shareable infographic as the primary photo. It’s a visual snapshot and roadmap for the 11 concepts he outlines on leadership. It is no surprise that his article received over 126,000 shares on Linkedin alone and a whopping 7400+ comments.
- Not All Shares Are Created Equal
Not all shares will have the same impact on the ultimate reach of your content marketing. Studies show that getting just one person who has influence online to share your article can have a multiplier effect on your content. It pays dividends to pay attention to the influencers that are currently sharing content that closely matches or parallels your own. By building relationships with them and inviting them to engage, you can exponentially increase your chance of reaching 4x more shares, than by relying solely on your own network.
After analysing over one hundred million articles, Buzzsumo compared the number of social shares for articles that had zero influencers versus those that had at least one influencer (where an influencer is defined as someone who receives at least 200 re-tweets on average, for every 100 tweets posted). What they found was that just having just one influencer share your content will boost your reach and shares by 31.8%. Having three influencers doubles the number and having 5 would almost quadruple the number of social shares you receive.
Interestingly, some recent research in the area of neuroscience seems to back up the notion that some people are far more effective at spreading ideas, stories and content. In “Creating Buzz: The Neural Correlates of Effective Message Propagation”, Falk, Morelli, Welborn, Daumbacher and Lieberman mapped the brain centers associated with ideas that are likely to be contagious. They were hoping to create maps which could be used in the future to forecast which ideas should be successful and who is likely to be effective at spreading them.
The scientists found that increased activity in the Temporoparietal Junction (TPJ) and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (“the mentalizing network”) of the subjects, was associated with an increased ability to convince others to get on board with their favorite ideas. What this research is suggesting is that some people may have a pre-disposition to be able to share ideas on a global scale.
As this research evolves, we will get closer and closer to discovering what differentiates ideas that bomb from ideas that buzz. Like all ideas, stories, content marketing etc, these concepts cannot spread virally on their own – they rely on effective social communication for dissemination. Messages which produce greater “mentalizing activity” in the brain when viewed are more likely to be passed on and the subjects appear to be more motivated to pass them on. The social currency of being a person who is known for spreading information of value (i.e. an information broker or ideas salesman) is incredibly valuable. Various networking sites such as Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter have long recognized this phenomenon and put formal strategies in place to promote these individuals as “information brokers or experts” and increase the overall engagement of readers with news and posts on their sites.
Case in point, the most successful article on Linkedin by Dave Kerpen was shared and commented by 5 highly influential readers. Those 5 alone were directly responsible for 511 likes and comments plus hundreds of LinkedIn shares, tweets and Facebook likes. As a result, over time Dave Kerpen has built up a following of over 458,000 people on Linkedin by writing great, shareable posts.
Similarly, Greg MeKeown’s post had 6 or 7 influencers who contributed to the large number of likes, comments and shares (particularly within Linkedin).
- Clickbait Sucks
For any entrepreneur, manager or blogger, headlines are vital to an even more important end — drawing a substantial amount of attention to topics that really matter. But designing memorable, curiosity-inducing headlines isn’t enough. As you know, content, articles and posts don’t go viral because people click — they go viral because people share.
“Clickbait” — overselling content marketing with outrageous headlines that entice the maximum number of people to click and visit a website — works to generate some views but it will never be enough to create viral content. Formulaic headlines don’t guarantee content that has the potential to go viral. To comment or share, your readers have to love what they see when they hit your site, see your video or read your post. That is why the two most crucial factors in motivating readers to share your content are the quality of and the emotion that you create with the insights you provide.
Ask yourself these three questions – “Does the content that I am about to post:”
- Engage or entertain on a relevant topic?
- Draw the audience in and invite them to imagine their world from a new perspective or inspire them to share their opinion?
- Deliver on the promise of the headline?
Headlines definitely matter but your content will only go viral if readers love what you are saying so much they are inspired to comment and share it with everyone. As you would suspect, all of the most read and shared articles on Linkedin delivered on the promise that the author’s made in their headlines – substantive posts, quality insights and practical tips that readers appreciated and felt compelled to share.
- We Share What Makes Us Feel Good
Emotion and repetition are the adhesives that cement events to your memory. As leading American neuroscientist Antonio Damasio puts it: “We are not thinking machines that feel, we are feeling machines that think.” Emotions play a part in virtually every decision you make, whether you like it or not, and sharing content is no exception. When something has an emotional impact on you, you are far more likely to remember and react; in that way, your strongest emotional responses will stay with you for your entire life because they create a deeper engram (or impression) in your mind.
Your emotions produce strong electrochemical responses that have been proven to directly influence the way you handle, respond to, and hold onto information. The cocktail of hormones that flood your mind when you experience strong emotions causes the connections in your brain to speed up, intensify, and be reinforced.
A strong emotional trigger is much more likely to drive you to share content or buy a product, than a rational argument for doing so. Emotional connections occur because your feelings are stirred. This happens whenever content you see causes you to “put yourself into the situation”. So content becomes great or memorable when it hooks you in—it effectively makes you a part of the scene and you feel the feelings of the story that is unfolding about something that is relevant to you.
As a sharing stimulus, emotion is incredibly powerful. And there is no more effective way to tap into or unleash the emotions of your readers than to tell them a story. Through the ages, we have passed on our history and our wisdom to our children in the form of stories. As a child, you likely came to expect a story from the people that you loved and looked up to—your parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers, ministers, and babysitters. Your brain felt comfortable and safe with both the stories and the storytellers and you are likely to pass on these stories, to your friends and your own children.
But the spectrum of emotions is large and research suggests that 3 particular emotions are more likely to result in content going viral. While anger, surprise and sadness motivated some people to share, awe, laughter and amusement universally outperformed all other emotions in inspiring social shares. For the most part, people want to be uplifted by posts and we also want to think that sharing interesting, practical and fun content brings value to our relationships, creates social currency, spurs conversation and inspires reaction.
This premise is supported by the Berger and Milkman study (University of Pennsylvania – Wharton School of Business), which examined the sharing of articles from the New York Times in 2008. They looked at approximately seven thousand articles to determine what characteristics the most-emailed articles had in common. After controlling for many other factors including author popularity, placement, timing etc., they discovered two features which stood out as being important to success – the positivity of the message and how much it excited the readers.
Not surprisingly all 3 of the top authors on Linkedin that I mentioned earlier utilized the element of storytelling to make their point. Their articles were positive, uplifting, fun and entertaining. Reading each one leaves you with the distinct impression that you can easily work these tips into your own work environment and that sharing these insights with your colleagues would be a great way to build camaraderie and create some thought provoking and constructive dialogue.
Even Aristotle (in 350 B.C) was obsessed with the pursuit of the secret to make his content persuasive and memorable – so that his ideas would be passed on from person to person. Replace oratory with online content creator, and Aristotle’s pursuit of the illusive key to what makes ideas catch on and spread, seems incredibly contemporary. Although with our modern day ability to track and analyse brain activity and data from millions of articles and websites at a time, we are much closer now to clearly defining the variables that cause us to engage deeply with and share content virally.
I have read quite a few articles and blogs lately from business coaches who advocate that you should spend money to get “likes” on your business page in Facebook and followers on other forms of social media. With all due respect, this is by far the most foolish and financially irresponsible strategy I’ve ever heard of. If your coach or advisor is telling you to do this, you need to need to understand that there are at least 3 good reasons why you should NEVER do this:
- While it is nice to have people like your page, you need to think about what the end game is. Likes don’t put money in your bank account and food on the table for your family. What you really need in your business is a good steady stream of qualified leads who are ready to pay you for your solution. Likes are not leads. They may like your page one day and never return or pay very little attention to the posts on your Facebook page.
- Facebook has recently changed the way their ads work (yet again) for posts on your business page. Even if you have thousands of followers, you must now pay to talk to them. In the old days, you could send messages and your posts were given priority in the newsfeed of your followers. Not anymore. Now, you must pay to promote each post you make or virtually no one will ever see it (no matter how many likes you have). With Facebook, you must pay to acquire the likes AND also pay to speak with them.
- When you send traffic to your own website and they give you permission to contact them, you are building the most important asset in your business: your list. Your list allows you to build a relationship with prospects and customers and it also buys you time to present your claim, solve their pain and prove that you can do it. Once you own your list, speaking to them is virtually free. No matter what, you have this list and it is always the most cost effective way of building your business. If someone else, like Facebook or any other social media site, owns your list, then they control how, what and when you can communicate – and how much you must pay to do it. If Facebook went off line or out of business, what would happen to the so-called list of followers you paid dearly to acquire?
As a small business can you really afford to buy likes on social media or should you spend your time and limited marketing budget on generating qualified leads who will pay you for your solution?
The most successful brands in the world don’t waste their money on likes. Instead they focus their time and money on influencing and persuading you to buy their solution. They know exactly how to push the “buy button” in your brain and they do it successfully over and over again.
They have ALL mastered 1 simple technique and they secretly hope that YOU will never discover what it is. As a small business owner, they currently have an unfair advantage over you but that is about to change… In my free online event on December 6th, 2012, I will reveal why this 1 technique is so damn effective and how you can use it to instantly influence and persuade your customers.
20 Nov 2011
Do you have a profile on Linkedin? If you do, this information is vital to your privacy and the sanctity of your ever-precious Inbox.
If you’re a professional or business owner, chances are you use a mix of social media tools (such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Google+) to build your brand and your circle of influence. And if you are like me, you have had to learn quickly how to manage your account settings on each one to minimize the amount of spam and unsolicited offers you receive.
Linkedin has recently made some changes which allow your names and photos to be used for third party advertising. The default setting on this function grants your permission, even though you have never specifically been contacted or asked. What this means is that you will now begin to send and receive alerts and promotions that appear to be endorsed by you or people you trust. It all looks legitimate, except none of you have granted your permission.
Thankfully, this is easy to fix.
Here Are 4 Simple Steps to Change Your Default Permission Setting on Linkedin
1. Click on your name on your Linkedin homepage (upper right corner of your profit). On the drop-down menu, select “Settings”.
2. From the “Settings” page, select “Account*”.
3. In the column next to “Account”, click “Manage Social Advertising” .
4. Un-tick the box next to “Linkedin may use my name, photo in social advertising” .
One of the things that I like most about Linkedin is that I receive a lot less spam, MLM offers and unwanted messages than on other social media services. If you are like me, you’ll want to take steps to keep it that way.
Also, if you are concerned with that amount of email that you have been getting lately from Linkedin, you may also want to check the new default settings under E-mail Preferences and Groups, Companies & Applications (such as Data Sharing with 3rd-party applications). All of this can be managed simply by you in your “Settings” tab.
This way YOU can decided whether you want to be Linkedin or Linkedout to unsolicited third party offers.
“With great exposure comes great responsibility.”
Without a doubt, social media marketing is the great equalizer. Until the arrival of WordPress, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, big business had an unfair advantage. Any business could of course create a website but few had the resources and knowledge to capture global exposure and sales.
Most SMEs had to settle for direct mail, local newspapers, networking, pay-per-clicks etc. because they simply could not compete with the big budgets of the big brands. In most cases, the advertising mediums with the biggest reach and frequency – TV, radio, online banner and outdoor – were out of the grasp of the average small business.
Social media marketing changed all of that.
With social media marketing, anyone can create an online presence and broadcast their uncensored views or talent worldwide, for less than $500. People like Justin Bieber and Lily Allen went from middle class obscurity to millions of fans and multi-million dollar careers virtually overnight due to social media.
Neilson published stats show that the world now spends over 110 billion minutes on social networks and blogs. What this means is that you, I and your prospects now spend 25% of our time (around 12-15 hours a month) visiting these types of sites. And unlike the consumption of other types of media, social media is doubling year on year, it’s inexpensive and it’s now available 24/7 on mobile devices.
And therein lies the problem.
Good and bad news, whether true or untrue, can spread online like an epidemic. As opposed to advertising (which is initiated by you), a large percentage of what is said in social networks (and social media marketing) is contributed by people outside of your organization. How do you keep track of every single thing that is said or written about you? It’s almost impossible to monitor and control where and how your brand is mentioned online.
That’s why social media marketing has the potential to boost your reach and sales exponentially, but it could also easily bring out the worst in your company. With this in mind, what do you need to consider and do in your business to mitigate the risks?
1. Social media marketing is for social interaction
The focus of traditional marketing and advertising is on lead generation and sales. However, in social media marketing, it’s all about engaging with others, exchanging information and creating relationships. In order to excel in the realm of social networks, you will need to offer value upfront (to gain followers) and then focus on getting to know them and understanding their needs.
Prospects and customers are more interested in the interaction they have with you than they are on the deals or special offers. If you don’t engage with your followers on their terms, you risk doing more harm to your brand than good. Think of how many people and businesses have asked you to “like” their brand, re-tweet a message or join their mailing list in the past 24 hours? We are inundated with brands talking at us in social media and it is getting harder to create an impression and persuade us to act.
2. Look for opportunities to turn around customer experiences
You will discover more in one week about your brand in social media marketing circles than you will find in a year of traditional research. People don’t censor their opinions when they share with their friends and you are likely to hear a lot of stories of how you have fallen short of expectations. All of this is a very good thing because it means that you have a direct opportunity to make it right. Of course, you have to be listening and you need to have a strategy on how you will deal with it. In the absence of these 2 things, you are actually worse off because the story will spread like wildfire and it will carry a much greater weight since it is shared among friends.
Most will mistakenly view social media marketing as a great place to sell more stuff. It is actually a far better place to listen to what your customers are saying and take action to turn bad experiences into positive ones.
3. What is it really costing you?
On the face of it, social media marketing appears practically free. However, when you factor in the time it takes to produce content across various mediums, cross- promote it, reply to followers etc., it could easily turn into a full time job. Your time (or the time of a team member) is valuable and needs to be measured against the returns generated by the online activity. Return on investment online is a function of both tangible and intangible factors.
In my experience, far too many small businesses are getting caught up in the hype of social media marketing without a clear understanding of the real cost or return. Why spend hours a day posting and interacting online if you can generate a better response by speaking directly to your customers or asking for a referral? Social media marketing only promises you can talk to more people for less money, it doesn’t guarantee that anyone will listen or that you will earn the same return on investment that you could receive elsewhere.
4. Be clear about your brand and branding strategy
Prospects often need to see the same message many times before they will decide to take action. One of the biggest mistakes that you can make is to overload your audience with too many messages because you are trying to be all things to all people. Repetition is the key to retention. In order to be remembered and acted upon, your message should be consistent across all channels including your social media marketing. This means that wherever your prospects and customers see you, they have to experience your brand and your message in the exact same way. This can become difficult when you are trying to manage multiple platforms and respond to what is happening in real time.
It pays to have a very clear strategy before you embark on social media. Social media marketing is not like traditional advertising channels – it is very fluid and dynamic. As such, circumstances can change on a daily basis and you need to outline ahead of time what your key messages are and how they should be communicated consistently to your audience.
5. Social media marketing is not for everyone
Who manages your social media marketing? If it is not you personally, does that employee or part-time contractor understand what your plan and overall strategy is? In many cases they may be the most direct links to your target market and everything that is said by them on your behalf will have far reaching implications for your brand and company.
If they are responding to a disgruntled customer or worse, an insane person who is just trying to create trouble, do they know exactly what to do to diffuse the situation? If the situation gets out of hand, at what point do you find out and become involved? Do you have the means to take action and protect your brand if matters get out of hand or you become the target of defamation?
The reach and potential of social media are great – so are the risks. While it may seem harmless and fun on the surface, the capacity to do irreparable harm to your brand is very real. Social media marketing needs to be entered into with a very clear plan. It’s not something that you should delegate freely or allow to run unmanaged.
Start first by monitoring what is said about you and your brand online. There are many free services online which can assist you to do this. Take some time to investigate what your competitors and other well known brands are doing in this space. Then, once you understand the key platforms and what you hope to gain on each by participating, you can begin to create a community of followers with confidence, control and safeguards.
What do you think of Google’s answer to the Facebook “like” button – the “Google +1 for business”?
The Google +1 for business is Google speak for making search more social and to combat that growing omnipotence of Facebook. The Google +1 for business feature allows users to vote +1 on search results they find useful, and to share that preference with their connections in Google chat, Gmail, Google Reader, Google Buzz and Twitter. Users are already amassing and viewing the total number of +1 votes and the names of their contacts who have posted their preferences.
If you caught the last 60 Minutes interview with Mark Zuckerberg, it was reported that Faceook has overtaken Google in terms of preference for web search and page views. Facebook also reports that an astounding 75% of its users log in every single day and many people use it actively to research products and companies – not by viewing their websites but by looking at what their friends have to say about these brands and businesses.
Seems like in addition to SEO, pay-per-click and content marketing, we now have an even more powerful web optimization formula – it’s called “He Said/She Said” – and you don’t need to be a tech guru or an advertising specialist to figure that one out! Before you make a new purchase or try out some new cloud application, do you just do a Google search or are you now also relying on the recommendations and experiences of your social media network?
Google has been all knowing and all powerful in the area of internet search for quite some time – heaven help you if you did something to influence your SEO ranking and they didn’t “like it”. They could wipe you off the world wide web map by dropping you down to page 99 and their was nothing you could do about it. Times sure have changed… Google may not be the #1 employer of choice for IT experts anymore- some believe it has lost more senior managers and IT developers to Facebook (than any other single company) in the past year.
The way I see it, Google must innovate now (and Google +1 for business is just one example) or it will surely go the way of Altavistsa. I know, I know… some of you Gen Y’s out there are saying Alta- who? Enough said.