April 11, 2017 / Leave a Comment
I think by now we can all admit to ourselves that good content isn’t possible without purpose.
What I mean by that, is that if the content we create for customers doesn’t provide them with value, seek to teach or inform, solve a problem, answer a question, entertain or delight, then it serves no purpose for a customer.
Our goals for creating content is first for customer experience, but there is a little bit in it for us, right? We strive to create something that is highly shareable. So not only will someone click and read it, but they go on to share it with others, favorite or like it like crazy, and retweet it for days on end. Social shares can prove to us that a piece of content was effective.
But what’s the winning formula? How do we know if we’ve created something that’s going to be a viral sensation, or barely leave readers buzzed?
Content with purpose = social shares
We know that viral content appeals to a wide range of audiences, but you still need to get your message across without diluting it to make it work for everyone. It should evoke emotions, but not be too emotional – unless that emotion is happy and positive. But above all else, it needs to have purpose. One of the best ways to achieve all these things, is by playing with your content format.
It’s important to note that not included in this list is video and live streaming. Those two will get a post of their own coming soon on the blog. Let’s first get into easy formats that you can create today, without any extra equipment or additional strategy:
1. How-To posts
What are most people seeking when searching online? When entering keywords into a Google search, chances are people are looking for information. It could be an answer to a question they have, or instructions to do something. This is where your content can help.
How-to posts are a great way to give value to your audience. You are providing them with something they can actually use, which in turn, will make them want to share with others who may find it just as useful. When composing a how-to post, consider what will motivate your audience to read and share it, but don’t make it too much about your product or business.
If, for example, you are a company that builds website plugins, create an instructional post for website owners on how to use plugins to enhance their website performance. There’s no need to sell your products in the post, because your credibility comes from offering valuable information for free that stems from your obvious knowledge base.
Research shows that how-to posts are one of the most shared online content formats today, but it’s also important to think about which platform is best for promotion. Facebook is a natural social media outlet for all things shareable, but consider Pinterest if your business is in the home, fashion, food, or travel industries. LinkedIn could be the optimal platform if your company offers products or services for businesses, or has expertise in hiring, communications, or leadership.
Yet another content format that is most shared is the quiz. Now quizzes are obviously an easy option for content that entertains (who hasn’t taken a Buzzfeed quiz?) but they can also be helpful or informational too, ensuring that your content is still providing value.
Quizzes are so successful because they increase user interaction dramatically, and yet there is still a personalized aspect to them, no matter who the audience member is. Even if your typical content M.O. isn’t purely entertainment, quizzes can help users solve problems, or gain insight. There are a couple different formats to help you do this. The obvious one is the actual test of knowledge or experience level, and another is the ‘find out which one you are’ format.
For the former, you can use this format to engage with audience members to again show your expertise in a given area. For example, if you’re a software company that creates programs for sales people, create a quiz on sales tactics, current sales trends, buyer personas or ‘what would you do’ scenarios.
People are often driven by wanting to learn, improve, or be better than others – quizzes put people’s competency to the test, which is why we’re so keen on taking them. People want to see how they do, and if they don’t perform as well as they hope, then they can potentially look to you as that expert.
If they’ve enjoyed the quiz and done well, they may be curious about the source of the quiz, look for more similar content, and most importantly, they want to show others how they’ve done.
“Find out which one you are” quizzes are more along the lines of those Buzzfeed quiz formats (think, ‘Which animal are you?’ or ‘What state should you really live in?’) These are great for entertainment purposes for obvious reasons and often get shared like crazy because people enjoy seeing others’ answers.
If you’re trying to take a more informational tone, try a quiz that categorizes users based on your industry. If you are in the transportation industry, create a quiz about “which mode of transportation is best for your family?” or “what kind of traveler are you?”
These types of quizzes are still fun and intriguing, but lend the results to be useful information, to help promote your company’s credibility, and provide that greater value to your audience.
3. Picture lists and infographics
It’s no secret that the average human attention span is steadily decreasing. Text is not always enough to grab someone’s attention – we are visual creatures after all. Picture lists and infographic formats can help dramatically increase the share-ability of your content by making information quickly and easily digestible.
List format posts have quickly become a frontrunner in shareable content due to their scannable nature. Users can get to the point quickly and can more easily find what they are looking for if they don’t wish to read a whole article. Picture lists make this even more appealing, through enhancing the quality of the post with visuals, or making any text easily understood with a graphical representation.
Facebook posts with images get exponentially more shares than ones without, so adding pictures to your content not only adds value for your audience, but it automatically increases share-ability. Picture lists can serve a great purpose when seeking to tell a story, explain a process, provide instructions, or make comparisons.
If you own an e-commerce company, such as an online clothing store, use a picture list to create content about the ‘7 clothing staples you need for winter.’ You can show your knowledge of fashion trends and your industry, while potentially showcasing some of your products.
Infographics are great for condensing your images and text even further. Infographic formats are especially ideal for promotion on Twitter and LinkedIn, and are super useful for providing a lot of information in a smaller space, while keeping quality and value for your audience.
Use infographics to visually showcase data points, such as from a survey or study, or to break down a complicated subject. If you are a digital advertising agency, you can use an infographic to show each type of display ad retargeting, with a graph or chart that shows the effectiveness of each.
In using infographics to depict potentially confusing or complicated topics, users will appreciate a simplified solution, and be willing to share with others whom they feel will benefit from the information you provide.
When you feel like your content is going nowhere and you can’t seem to get your audience to react with your posts, it may not be that your content is lacking. Try mixing up the format of your posts, and remember the ways in which you can create purposeful content.
When you create content that informs, solves a problem, answers a question, entertains, or delights, and you utilize a format such as a how-to, a quiz, a picture list, or infographic, you’ll have a formula for something that is valuable and highly shareable.
Read more about content formats in our recent blog post, 7 Blog Types that Readers Actually Get Excited About.