That we live in an era of content explosion is putting it mildly. According to data from DOMO, there are 347 new blog posts published every single minute on WordPress alone. Then there are the 200 million new emails sent, the 48 hours of video uploaded to YouTube, and more.
In this data glut, it’s nearly impossible for the average business to create content that will stand out and bring potential users to it. However, if you ask marketers, content marketing remains one of the most reliable marketing methods being used today. One for which budgets allocations are only on the rise.
So what is that “X factor” that shareable content has, which the mountains (dumps?) of other content doesn’t? Let’s find out.
Know Thy User
The champions of content marketing who see their content shared thousands of times all have one thing in common: They know exactly whom they’re speaking to and create separate pieces of content targeting each segment of potential users. Zeroing in on the perfect audience segments can be difficult, but it’s by no measure impossible. There are three avenues where you can pick up gold nuggets of ideas on what content to create.
Dive into your websites analytics package to discover what your users are doing on your site. What sections are the most popular, which pages do users interact with the most, and which pages get the maximum active time are all clues to what interests your customers. Other giveaways are the specific search terms they used and the location they were at while searching when they landed on your site. Build content around these topics, keywords and locales to develop stuff that users will hunt down with precision.
2. Competitive research
What is the competition doing? Does your competition have popular YouTube videos or Facebook video posts? If so, clearly, your mutual target audience likes video content and you might be well advised to consider shooting something along similar lines.
3. Horse’s mouths
When nothing else works, ask your users directly. Ask them what type of content they’d like to read on your blog or social networks. Ask how often they read and share such content; also quiz them on specific topics that they would like to read about. This narrows down your tasks to very precise steps and betters your chances of creating shareable, engaging content.
Pick a simple tool to build your own surveys and administer them to users via your website, email newsletters, social media, and apps.
Stick to Formats That Work
Just as the quantity of content littering the internet is vast, so are the various formats in which the content is shared.
Images are the clear heroes of social media. The proliferation of social sharing sites that revolve around sharing images is proof that we are visual creatures who love sharing pretty images. (Think Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, even Facebook).
Speaking of pretty images, social media posts that carried an image or an album get 120 to 180% higher shares than plain text based posts. Buffer found that tweets with images had 18% higher CTRs, 89% more favorites and 150% more retweets. Good enough reason to venture into image posts?
White papers and original research have been the mainstays of content marketing for years. A RainToday study showed that 74% of professional services companies ranked white papers as an excellent source of lead generation.
Readers crave data that is credible and quotable to use in their own day to day work lives. By offering them exactly that in the form of a new research study or an in-depth white paper, you’re feeding into their needs.
This man clearly knew what he was talking about:
A recent study by Moz and Buzzsumo confirmed Ogilvy’s prophetic words: Content that is over 3,000 words in length gets an average of 5,000 shares and backlinks from 11 different domains.
Remember how playing with your friends was usually more fun than sitting in a corner reading books when you were a kid? This is not because you were a unique child who wasn’t much into books. This was because interactive activities naturally appeal to our brains than passive activities like reading.
This is one huge reason behind the popularity of content like interactive infographics, silly quizzes and the like. You can go interactive in multiple ways. Quizzes, games, calculators (interest calculators) are all great examples of interactive content design that engages users without being too difficult to execute by the brand owners.
Interactivity doesn’t even have to be a quiz or a game. It can be a break in the monotony of regular content by throwing in something unexpected. For example, want a change of pace from your regular content and quickly sell something? Embed a fun item that users can buy straight out of your newly setup blog – there are a variety of tools out there that can help you do exactly that.
Video content is the new black for content marketers. That YouTube is wildly popular does not need any reiteration. However, it is with introduction of native video in users’ personal feeds that Facebook (and Instagram, and Periscope, and ...) changed the tide of video content across all platforms.
Axonn Media recently carried out a study among 600 consumers as well as creators of content to find what they prized most in the content they consumed every day. They found that 75% of users share video content, primarily via Facebook and Twitter. 7 in 10 people studied also said that their perceptions of brands became more positive after consuming video content from these brands.
At the time of writing this article, Humans of New York had over 14.8 million fans on Facebook. I reference time into this piece of information for a reason. This is one page that sees its follower growth, user engagement and fan activism like no other.
The reason? The human stories that the page owner – photographer Brandon Stanton – brings alive with each post. The emotional vulnerability that each story oozes makes users relate to them and reach out to the characters in the stories. A case in point, the HONY community raised over $2million in contributions in a matter of days to end slave labor in Pakistan. So much for charity and neighborliness being dead!
Shareable content has one key thing in common. It makes the person who’s sharing look good, smart and empathetic. Keep that critical factor in mind when developing your own content and you should be on your way to some viral content goodness!
About the Author
Rohan Ayyar fits into dual roles at E2M, a digital marketing agency where he’s involved in web analytics and creative content strategy, and at Moveo Apps, where he steers the UX process with a focus on conversions. Rohan is an avid blogger, with posts featured on Fast Company, Business Insider India and Entrepreneur, amongst others. Follow him on Twitter at @searchrook.
For tips on measuring your content marketing to prove success, download the free Salesforce e-book.