2014 is the year of content marketing. As the hype behind social media begins to die down, marketers are focusing back on the core of the online medium – content. Content marketing is the crux of inbound marketing, social media and “viral” PR programs. The industry has recognized for years that companies, no matter their industry, are becoming content publishers. But what does that really mean?
At Renegade, we put a lot of stock into content. In the social media world, content is the voice of the brand. It’s what carries the message to your community and, furthermore, to prospects. While we don’t believe that every company needs to invest an entire editorial staff to keep up with large content producers like IBM, who is producing content on an online publisher level, we do believe that quality content goes a long way in connecting with your audience.
Before diving into the creation of content, let’s first define what good content is. There are three ingredients that, when combined, make content powerful. The first is worldview. Your content should speak to your audience’s worldview (how they see the world and their values). This can be anything from political leanings to simple ideas like viewing a vegan diet as healthy living. Keep in mind that your audience may have multiple worldviews. The second variable is brand values. These are the values that your company holds dear. They affect how you run your business and your relationships with customers. Zappos’ dedication to customer service, for example, is the epitome of brand values. The last ingredient is relevance. This is the key ingredient, as it is the final filter to keep your brand from making major content blunders. It also helps you maintain diligence and avoid stooping to the level of sharing cat memes for the sake of engagement. If you’re not a pet brand, why are you posting cat photos??
Any piece of content that doesn’t support your customers’ worldviews, your brand values or is irrelevant to both your customers and your business should be reconsidered. Quality content adds value to your community and drives your business story (more on that shortly). It ties together all the moving parts and ideas around your brand, strengthening existing relationships and creating new ones between customers and your company.
Tell the Story
A good piece of content doesn’t just stand on its own, it also pushes the brand story forward. Look at Jimmy Kimmel’s fake twerking videos. Now that was quality content! The YouTube video spoke to the core Jimmy Kimmel audience, supported the comedic values of the Jimmy Kimmel brand and was extremely relevant at the time. In addition to being great content, it was deployed as part of a larger series of content that Jimmy Kimmel Live used to promote viewership and drive earned media. Other parts of the series included extensive fake commercials that aired during the show and a “wolf” prank during the Winter Olympics. Jimmy is a prankster, and much of his content supports that story.
Even if you have a firm understanding of what quality content looks like, you still have the challenge of producing it. Online content can come in a number of different forms and iterations. Images (and its many subcategories, i.e. infographics or memes), videos, text, or even microsites are all variations of content. Then comes the challenge of individual network constraints. For instance, users tend to engage more with images on Facebook, while Vine limits video content to 6 seconds and loops content automatically.
Designing your content requires that you understand the constraints and natural user behaviors of your distribution channels. Additionally, your company may not have the creative staff to produce quality videos, infographics or more intricate microsites. The bottom line is that you need to formulate a workflow that works within your abilities as a company.
A Few Extra Points
The most successful content uses emotion. Try to evoke an emotion in your audience with your content. A recent study by BuzzSumo looked at its top shared blog posts. While the ideal length of content is still up for debate, it is important to note that emotions played a large role in whether the BuzzSumo community shared its content or not. Not all communities are the same, however. Another study recently published by University of Pennsylvania professors analyzed the top shared stories on Reddit.com and found that the images that evoked anticipation and surprise were the most-shared images from the site. The study also examined The New York Times and found that its strongest content evoked anger or awe. Test a variety of emotions to find the most powerful one for your audience.
Lastly, don’t forget to have a point of view. Mediocrity won’t get you anywhere, and neither will trying to please everyone. Remember that your audience has its own worldview, and the common thread among them is typically driven by a strong feeling about a specific topic. This does not mean that you need to be controversial, but it does mean that your brand should stand up for its values.
As you continue into the last half of the year, take a look at your content. How does it all tie together? Does it evoke emotion? Are you supporting your community and brand values? There is a big opportunity to make your online presence a powerful one, and it all starts with what you’re saying online!
A new platform called TubeRank claims that it has found the formula for viral videos! After a year-long study of videos on YouTube, they have categorized and compartmentalized the seemingly elusive viral video into what they call "audience triggers" and "communities of interest." The site’s purpose is to generate videos based on these variables to give you viral inspiration. This is very helpful tool and their analysis is spot-on. A video goes viral because it evokes certain emotions (triggers) in a particular “community of interest,” who, in turn, shares it with others outside the community. If the video relates to people outside that community, it could even reach farther and go “super viral." Take a look at TubeRank’s platform and you’ll see they’ve neatly organized these "triggers" and "interests," as well as the additional categories of User-Generated Content (UGC) and branded content, into the platform interface. With this platform, you can set the intensity of three triggers, such as "EPIC", "WTF" or "Educational," select up to three communities of interests, and choose UGC or branded content or both. BOOM! They pump out the top viral videos for those criteria. With a splash of "EPIC” and loads of “Moving,” we found the viral video of Isaac’s Bruno Mars marriage proposal:
But there is still a BIG PROBLEM with this equation— TubeRank successfully identifies which community of interests and what kind of triggers caused videos to go viral, but it does not identify how these communities discovered the video in the first place. In other words, it’s missing the tipping point of virality. The "make it and they will come" method just doesn’t work! Many great videos lie dormant on YouTube for years until someone of influence happens upon them. Even videos that have great potential and do get noticed sometimes fizzle out quickly. Until the formula can also answer, "How do I get people to notice my videos?" the viral video will stay elusive.
From gaming and social video to personal money and time management, there is indeed a mobile app for everything…or so it may seem. Today’s mobile applications are cheaper and easier to build than ever before. This growth has primarily been fueled by the rapid innovation in mobile technology, which is predicted to soon replace Web 2.0 altogether. With that said, what elements will comprise the successfully viral mobile apps of tomorrow, and who will create them? In varying degrees, future viral apps will embody the five integral elements listed below.
(1) Solve real problems
The viral mobile applications of tomorrow must aim beyond solving small problems. Historically, web applications (including mobile) spread quickly because they addressed our basic individual needs, such as human connection (Facebook, and LinkedIn), knowledge of our immediate surroundings (Foursquare), and discovery of our personal interests (Pinterest, Spotify, StumbleUpon).
It should come to no surprise, however, that there are huge problems affecting billions of people daily—problems much bigger than being the next “Instagram for video.” Although these issues may be quite complex, it is possible that the capabilities afforded by emerging mobile technologies and social media actually could make the mobile apps of the future the missing pieces to the puzzle.
(2) Deep Design
It is becoming increasingly common for mobile and web app founders to consult with UI/UX designers before partnering with actual developers. User experience is everything, and its nuances can make or break the success of an app. Pinterest, for example, utilizes technology that isn’t that much different from Tumblr’s—both are microblogging platforms. Pinterest’s pin board design, however, is a simpler, more intuitive way to display what can seem like an overwhelming amount of information.
Mobile apps, in particular, are operated on devices designed for touch. This requires developers to think ergonomically in designing apps for fingers and thumbs. Whether on the run, in the kitchen, or waiting in the airport, understanding how, where, and when your target audience uses your app is needed for proper design.
Flipboard is an example of a mobile iPhone and iPad app that has brought a familiar element of touch back to the publications we consume. Users “flip” through pages of a digital magazine by swiping their finger over the screen in way that resembles flipping through its paper counterpart.
No longer is design an afterthought to a product’s development. Design has the capability to completely alter the definition and use of a product and set the tone for its relationship with the user. Those who build tomorrow’s viral apps will be visual decoders of sorts—gathering and visually organizing information in a way that is appealing, simplified, and engaging while fully recognizing the relationship between the user and mobile device.
Upon establishing the purpose of the app and approaching the design of the user experience, the following elements are also key:
(3) Instant utility via simplicity
How long does it take the user to realize the core benefit of the app? Are there tasks or processes that could be simplified? Apps will differ in complexity based on their purpose and target audience, but simplicity should be achieved in the app wherever possible, whether it’s reducing steps to complete a task or finding a way to accomplish a specific thing that was once quite complex. Much of what makes Instagram engaging is the app’s ability to apply a number of beautiful visual effects to a photo without the need of a comprehensive photo-editor.
How often would anyone want to use an app again, and who would do so? Successfully viral apps typically give users a strong reason to come back by fulfilling an important or unique task, and/or by finding a way to engage with users like no other app does. Angry Birds is amongst thousands of other games in our mobile marketplaces, but its simplicity, comedic storyline, and variety of harder levels encourages users to come back for more.
Is this an app that users would likely share with others? The app can be interesting enough for users to share it on their Facebook Walls, or the app can have extended social functionality. Draw Something is an example of a sharable app by its ability to bring two people together (either friends or strangers) for a friendly drawing competition. Via a simple and engaging utility, Draw Something built a social gaming experience around something that many people already love to do—draw and doodle. Ultimately, developers must understand the extent and the means by which users will engage others with the app.
Although there isn’t a clear-cut formula as to what embodies a viral mobile app, the ones that are viral have varying degrees of the above elements. Entrepreneurs, developers, and brands should find innovative ways and approaches for their apps to encompass these elements. In the words of Forbes technology contributor, Eric Jackson, “Fortunes will be made by those who adapt to and invest in this new greenfield [mobile applications]. Those who own the future are going to be the ones who create it. It’s all up for grabs.”
-- Thomas Varner
As a common word, “contagious” usually conjures memories of never-ending flues, Hollywood thrillers (Contagion, anyone?) and that guy the subway who sneezed on you this morning. But in the world of social media marketing, where viral videos, retweets and Facebook likes drive traffic, contagious is key.
Hubspot’s Dan Zarrella, author of the e-book, Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness, recently hosted a Science of Social Media webinar to further explain and promote his research.
Eschewing the “unicorn and rainbow” marketing defaults that are guided by what feels right, Zarrella sought to analyze the efficacy of social media campaigns using quantifiable methods and data. Many of his findings can be compared to established scientific theories such as gene propagation and evolution.
Here are some of the highlights of his research. You can watch the webinar in its entirety here.
- Retweets are like fruit flies. Fruit flies reproduce quickly and in great numbers, but they have short life spans. Elephants, on the other hand, take longer and have fewer offspring, but the have increased longevity. With regard to campaigns, you have to decide if you want short-term virality or long-term loyalty.
- Engaging in conversation is not the most important part of a campaign. Zarrella’s data indicates that it’s far more important to share interesting content.
- Marketing and zombies are the peanut-butter and jelly of audience reach. A combined relevance exists wherein two seemingly unrelated topics (like marketing and the undead) are popular within a specific group. Uncovering and attending to both subjects makes you more relevant.
- Embrace the weekends. Zarrella maintains that posting content while social channels are quieter, like Fridays and weekends, can help you reach followers when they have more time and less information fighting for their attention.
- Kardashian is King… er, Queen. The New York Times has low clickthrough rates while the Kardashians’ rates are among the highest, making them the most influential users on Twitter. In 10 years, we’ll all be pledging allegiance to Kim, Khloe and Kourtney.
Perhaps the Marketing Zombies will save us.
— Nicole Duncan
[adverblog ] Adobe has just launched copydetected a sort of viral marketing initiative to fight software piracy. A video
presents the misadventures of Kevin, a creative type hooked on pirating
The site is cool and there will be a new video uploaded each week. Check it out!