How to craft compelling content that’s highly contagious
In today’s ever-changing world people are flooded with advertisements, messages, stories, videos on a consistent basis. With so many brands, so many people, it can seem like a daunting task to publish content that will be liked, shared, and build your brand’s visibility and credibility. Instead of competing or comparing yourself to what is already out there, and feeling discouraged about your poor results, I encourage you to become familiar with this process that can make your digital life easier and more rewarding.
I am excited to share with you a simple six step process that Jonah Berger, who is a Marketing Professor and Best Selling Author, recommends for creating contagious content for online media. Mr. Berger uses a process that focuses on the psychology behind why people share, and gives us advice on how we can create compelling content through the use of emotional intelligence. The main idea behind his framework is that people remember content that evokes strong emotions, and this leads them to share that content with friends, family, and on social media networks.
This quick summary will help you understand how and why people make choices online, and how to increase the likelihood of your content getting noticed and shared. The internet changes, the medium changes, and technology changes, but people stay the same. Find out how to make your audience tick and have them spread your content like wildfire with this 6 STEPPS formula.
1.) Social Currency: Make People Look Good
The first part of the process is social currency, and this is all about making people look good. When you present your content in a way that makes your audience feel like they are insiders, like they are getting top secret information, this adds value to your content and is more likely to be spread. If you make your audience feel smart, or like they have access to something exclusive, they are much more likely to share your content on their social circles.
People usually tend to know many more people a lot like themselves, so whenever you have a unique piece of content that is humorous, interesting, or informative, people will share it with their social circle, and it will create a ripple effect. There is a scarcity factor to social currency, so generally the first person to share this “little known content,” is often seen as an authority figure or industry leader. This builds visibility and credibility for the person who shares, and it also passes on their credibility on to the content that was shared. This type of win-win scenario is what encourages people to share and reinforces that behavior so that they continue to do it.
I would recommend using visuals such as videos, infographics, and, and other image based content, as most content that is shared online is visual content. It’s important to build value in your content and for you to be very clear on your call to action. Also if you invite them to sign up for your newsletter in exchange of information that they find valuable, or to subscribe to your channel by promising exclusive access to other content, this will help you capitalize on your increased traffic and build long-term trust.
2.) Triggers : Make it very easy to remember
Triggers are external stimulus in your environment that remind you about something else. For example during October there’s a lot of pink Cancer ribbons on the Internet, TV, and other mainstream media. There’s a lot of athletes and different political figures and celebrities that endorse this cause. By now it is likely that you have linked these pink ribbons to mean that it is breast cancer awareness month.
Triggers are creative ways that you can associate your offer or content to everyday life so that others find it easy to relate to it. Find an existing pattern to attach your product, service, or message to, and use this as an anchor to keep your brand top of mind. What could be the trigger that fires off their awareness and makes them remember who you are and why you are there? This is something that you can have fun with by testing multiple ideas and see which one brings you the best result.
Triggers are time sensitive because when the trigger happens you want the most people sharing your content, thus creating more social currency. Creating patterns that fit in your target markets routine is a good way to let triggers do the work for you. Patterns like specific holidays or seasons, are great ways to tie in to conversations that are already taking place.
Knowing your audience is key for knowing what triggers will work best, make sure that you are familiar with your audience. For example if you know a majority of your audience drinks coffee, you can choose a morning related trigger that gets fired off after they are done drinking their coffee. If you are going after stay-at home moms, maybe your trigger can be set around 4 pm, after they pick up the kids from school and get settled in. Be familiar enough with what your audience may be experiencing and what they like and dislike, and you will be able to craft content that makes them feel like you are talking straight to them.
3.) Emotions : Call To Passion
It is important to seek to understand the underlying emotions behind why people purchase your product or service, this will help you share content on social media that addresses their major pain points. For example if you have an offer that would add more convenience to their life, or make their busy life easier, people are much more likely to listen. It’s a great idea to include case studies, and testimonials to show what problems other people were having and how your product or service helped them be the hero!
Use stories, social proof, and emotional intelligence to craft your message, and brainstorm different ways that people can be inspired to take action, subscribe, or and place an order. Remember to work backwards and find the underlying core emotions that your audience is seeking to get closer to, or further away from.
The most important element of this step is to know something that they are truly passionate about. Seek to activate their emotions, whether positive or negative and give them an action to take, so that they can do something about it.
Mr. Berger states that awe is one of the most powerful emotions that we feel. Not surprisingly, awe is also the most likely emotion that will inspire us to take action. Try to find a way to awe people with surprise, amazement, or some of welcome distraction. Spike people’s curiosity and remember to use language that they are familiar and can relate to.
When you make it easy to relate to your content, you are more likely to get more shares and a better response to your campaign. Remember that if your content does not create any type of emotion it is not likely at all that it’s going to be shared.
For example, I was recently at a conference and a woman shared a story about how her emotional intelligence helped her get a free flight across the US. She shared on Facebook how frustrated she was with her insurance company for not covering a necessary expense for her plane flight. Without even asking, two days later her friends and family raised enough money to cover that flight for her. They all could relate to being frustrated with their insurance company and were compelled to help her. Truth is nobody is particularly excited about paying their insurance premium each month, and more than likely they’ve experienced pain or frustration in the past, so this woman’s story touched them and inspired them to take action.
I give this specific example because it goes to show that negative emotions can also be used effectively to create urgency or inspire people to take action. This is especially true if you are raising money for a cause like poverty or child hunger, which may be challenging to create excitement around.
Knowing your audience, crafting content that they can relate to, and using emotional intelligence are all excellent ways to create content that is contagious and builds your brand’s visibility and credibility.
4.) Public : Built to show and grow
When you are aiming to create contagious content, make sure that it is built to for others to show and grow. Make it as easy as possible to share your content and don’t require many extra steps. A good tip is to use social sharing buttons on your website, and accompany your content with interesting videos or graphics that make it more appealing.
Next, make sure you have family, friends, or colleagues that are ready to like or share your content as soon as it is published. Don’t leave it to chance, the sooner that people share your content once it is published, the more momentum you will create. Often people are reluctant to be the first person to share something, but if they see it has been shared 20 times, they are more likely to also share it. The easier you make it, the better your results. Don’t make them think! Make it so easy that a five year old could do it.
A good example of this in practice is Mashable.com, they are a trusted source for the latest news in technology. They have a large audience and consistently create social proof, therefore most of their content goes viral. It also helps that they frequently publish content from well-known authors and influential bloggers across many industries.
Mashable’s platform is ever-growing, and they continuously stay top of mind by releasing fresh content daily. The more people that share their content, the more credibility and reach they build over time. We live in a “monkey see, monkey do” dynamic, so if it’s easy to share, people will have a natural tendency to do so. Convince them that they will look good, keep it simple, and the rest will take care of itself.
Making your content publicly available, and easy to share through your platform will help you reach a wider audience and build up your readership over time. The good news is that you don’t have to be Mashable in order to be successful, there is plenty of opportunity to be the authority without necessarily being the biggest fish in the pond. With time and dedication it is very possible for anyone to build a large following and become an industry leader using social media.
5.) Practical Value: Keep it relevant
Your content is much more likely to be shared or liked, commented, shared, and get significant interaction when it truly delivers value to the end-user. For example using lists, or creating infographics and how-to videos that educate, entertain, or inform is a great idea. In order to do this, you need to really know your audience and what type of questions they have, as well as where they hang out and where they go to seek advice.
Make your content something that end-users can easily or quickly apply, and keep it short by delivering bite-size information, then lead them to a resource where they can get further help if they are interested. If you create content that inspires them to take action, try it themselves, and see results quickly, it will have higher value and be shared more.
This is why it’s a good idea to offer free downloads, samples, white papers, guides, how-to videos, audio files, books, PowerPoint’s, checklists, printables, and other type of content that will somehow make their life easier. Being relevant and helpful will never go out of style, and people will reward your generosity through engagement and shares.
6.) Stories : Create a conversation
A story creates conversation, gives us something to talk about, and something to remember. Mr. Berger’s advice encourages us to stop selling and to start storytelling in order to craft our message in a unique way that makes our message memorable and easy to share. Creating a narrative around your brand also gives it personality and depth. People are drawn to what they find meaningful, controversial, or mysterious.
It’s important to remember to make them the hero of the story, not your brand, and they are much more likely to actually share it. It’s very important to use tie-ins to make your product or service a key detail of the story without actually making it seem like everything is built around it. Make it easy to notice, but don’t make it the center point of attention.
Proof that peanuts can be be the center of an interesting story
A good example of this is a company that sells peanuts. At first peanuts may seem plain, kind of boring, and you may ask “How do I make peanuts sound interesting?” Well my friend, I have quick story that may illustrate this for you.
When Barbara and Ben were 20, they met at a new year’s party. Ben playfully gave Barbara a handful of peanuts and said “I wish these were pearls.” They dated, got to know each other, and went on to get married and have 2 kids. After they were happily married for 60 years, and Ben was on his deathbed, he gave Barbara a handful of pearls and said “I wish these were peanuts.” “Me too!” she said. The End.
Bam! Did you see how peanuts instantly became much more interesting to you after reading that story? This part is where you can have fun, be creative, and find uncommon ways to tie in your offer while making it easy to remember.
Whew! So those are the 6 steps to crafting contagious content. Here are some more resources in case you want to read more examples, and find out what other people are saying, and how they are leveraging this for their content and marketing efforts.
Useful further Reading and Information : )
1.) Here’s a quick video of Marie Forleo interviewing Mr.Berger, a quick watch and fast to digest about viral marketing.
2.) If you’re an avid Lynda.com user check out this course titled Viral Marketing : Crafting Shareable Content, it’s about an hour long, but totally worth it.
3.) If you are a bookworm and would really like to dig in much deeper and further strengthen your content marketing skills I encourage you to buy Jonah Berger’s Book : Contagious : Why Things Catch On