Content marketing is one thing, but pumping out content simply for the sake of creating it is a waste of time - especially when you've got other important things to do.
I came across a great article from the New Yorker earlier this week on the six things that make stories go viral. The article in its entirety is an excellent read, but one of the key things to keep in mind comes from the title of the article itself, and that is to remember - and understand - that it is stories that make the difference.
Whether you're writing about the latest legal developments in no fault divorce, the best ways to protect your legacy in your estate plan, or the most important risk factors to keep in mind when starting a business, what grabs people are stories - readers want to know how these issues have affected others and how they might affect them. They want the human element.
The New Yorker article is about a study conducted by Jonah Berger, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania along with another professor, Katherine Milkman, which analyzed three months' worth of articles from the Times in 2008 to see which ones were read and shared the most - and to try to figure out why.
According to the article, the research found that articles that evoked emotion performed better, and the stronger the emotion, the more likely it was that the article would be shared (after all, there's nothing more human than emotions). In general, stories with positive messages outperformed negative ones. Similar results were found in a more controlled follow up study done with students, and Berger has continued to do additional research. He is also the author of a new book, "Contagious: Why Things Catch On."
The six factors Berger has identified that contribute to virality are:
- Emotion - Stories that strike an emotional chord are more likely to be shared.
- Arousal - Essentially, the intensity of the emotion elicited; stories that arouse strong emotions - whether positive or negative - are more compelling.
- Social currency - Something that makes people feel they are "with it" or part of the insider culture not only garners attention, but prompts sharing because those who share will appear to be "with it" too.
- A memory trigger - When something sticks with you, it makes you want to share - as Maria Konnikova, the author of the New Yorker article notes, "We share what we’re thinking about—and we think about the things we can remember."
- Practical value - There's so much content out there and so many messages to wade through; when something provides real value, it's worth sharing - and it makes the sharer look good, too.
- The quality of the story - Important or compelling stories fare better than bland ones.
Looking for ways to improve your content, or make it more engaging and share-worthy? Take a look at this list of 6 things and see how you can incorporate some of them into your content. If you can tell a story that evokes strong positive emotions, you're off to a good start. But if your subject doesn't lend itself so much to that kind of story, offering practical, down to earth tips may still boost your engagement.