In the modern age of internet marketing, a great article, infographic, or video sends ripples through an online community, and the best advertisers know how to turn those waves into a perfect storm.
Get your audience members excited about your content, and they’ll do the hard part for you.
But while a BuzzFeed-style post about the TV series “Game of Thrones” might be a gold mine for viral shares, coming up with a compelling angle for a topic like integrated CRM protocols may prove a bit more challenging. The trick is to not get bogged down on the subject matter (even paint has a legion of fans), and instead focus on context and execution. Cultivate your own legion to spread your best content marketing efforts all over the web by following these five steps.
1. Tap the cultural ethos
Whether you’re promoting a hit television show, CRM software, or paint, every product has an internet culture surrounding it. Understanding that culture must be the first step you take before publishing your best content marketing. Remember, ethos in marketing has two main components: industry appeal and emotional appeal.
First, think about how you can build trust and authority within your industry culture. What kind of content are your competitors distributing? Who is the target audience? What kind of tone is used? Is it formal? Playful? Authoritative? Some of these stylistic decisions can be attributed to branding, so it’s important to distinguish brand identity from industry culture. For example, the figure below compares the front pages of two popular tech blogs, TechCrunch (top) and Gizmodo (bottom).
Gizmodo is relatively informal, with oddball topics, irreverent titles, and minimal structure, while TechCrunch is more ordered and a little more professional, yet it still feels more fun than business-oriented. Collectively, these blogs offer valuable insight into the culture of young-adult tech fans. Separately, TechCrunch is branded more as an industry insider, while Gizmodo is branded as an outsider’s voice.
By adapting your tone to the industry audience, you identify yourself as an informed participant in a pre-existing discourse. But unless you have something new to contribute to the conversation, your content risks coming off as stale and regurgitated, and your brand will carry that weight. To combat this, establish your own brand identity, with a unique voice that resonates consistently throughout the content you publish, while keeping under the umbrella of your industry’s general tone and lexicon.
As you craft your voice, it’s also a good time to start thinking about emotional appeal. Understand your audience and tailor your content to its values. In the fuel business, for example, you will not win hearts and minds with an infographic about how BP kills dolphins; but content with a new perspective on foreign oil may spark engagement in the controversy, healthy debate and, by extension, shares.
2. Stay timely and topical
Part of engaging an audience almost comes down to being able to read their minds. Fortunately, in the information age this is surprisingly easy to do.
RSS tools like Feedly or Pulse consolidate updates from all of your target industry’s blogs into one organized feed for up-to-date news in and around your field. But more than what the industry says, you want to know what the industry shares. What stories pop from these lists to grab audiences’ attention?
This is where a tool like BuzzSumo comes in handy. By searching a topic or keyword, like “online shopping,” you get a list of top-trending articles, along with sharing stats that span the most popular social media platforms.
Filter any content older than a week, a month, or 24 hours, but keep in mind that the top articles have typically circulated their way through the usual channels, so piggybacking on the most shared content isn’t necessarily the best content marketing strategy. Alternately, try cross-referencing Buzzsumo results with your RSS feed to find unexplored angles on trending topics. Again, if you can’t bring anything new to the table, you’re just adding to the static, and nobody is going to want to share static.
3. Optimize aesthetics
According to this Buffer article, the ideal headline is six words long, the ideal paragraph falls between 40 and 55 characters, and the ideal blog post takes about seven minutes to read, roughly equating to 1,600 words. For these reasons, it’s important to keep in mind that image size, placement, and color scheme also affect your content’s allure, and that each social media works within its own parameters:
For example, an optimized Google+ share likely includes:
- A dazzling image
- A headline that grabs attention in fewer than 60 characters
- Body text that gets right to the point
An optimized Facebook share might include:
- An intriguing image
- An easy-to-read, inclusive narrative in fewer than 40 characters
- A call to action
An optimized tweet might include:
- 140 characters
- An in-text link to the content
- Relevant hashtags
Here are a few more tips to make your great content marketing more appealing and shareable:
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help amplifying your great content marketing on social media. Studies have shown that merely adding “RT” to a Twitter share averaged a staggering 73 more retweets than tweets that didn’t even ask.
- Bit.ly is a great tool for compressing links to make more room for actionable text, and Twazzup is a great resource for monitoring hashtag performance and analytics.
- Arrange content shares with each platform’s aesthetic in mind and you can give your followers a share package — prepared and optimized for effortless circulation far and wide.
4. Publish during “virtual rush hour”
Rush hour is a well-known dead zone for most social shares and content amplification; but just as each platform has its own aesthetic, each one also has its own virtual rush hour, as well. These are times when traffic is high and energy is low, nobody’s moving very fast, and everyone’s looking for something to pass the time. If you want to be the NPR of the information superhighway, you need to broadcast your best content marketing at times when everybody’s listening.
Take a look at how Forbes listed each social media’s daily rush hour:
- Twitter hits its maximum traffic around 1 p.m.
- Facebook really comes alive around 5 p.m.
- Pinterest users are night-owls, posting the most around 11 p.m.
- Email is for early birds, with the most forwards happening at 7 a.m.
- Google+ gets the best amplification around 10 a.m.
- Tuesday is the best day for promoting content
- Most shares and highest click-back rates happen between noon and 2 p.m.
According to the Bitly Blog, the half-life of the average link is about three hours, meaning half the shares you ever get will most likely happen during that short span. It’s only downhill after that, so it’s especially important to strike while the iron is hot.
5. Give back
As you dress up your share package to impress influencers in your field, you should keep in mind, they are probably here for the same reasons you are. Retweet, “like,” and share their content, and over time, they’ll recognize you as a productive member of this share-based economy.
While sharing from competitors might seem counterintuitive, curating your competition’s best content is a sign of good sportsmanship and a confident marketing strategy. It sends a message to your audience that you’re as dedicated to the industry as you are to the brand.
Amplification on autopilot
The most effective core strategy for amplification is providing your followers with content worth sharing. If you can develop a share package that is mindful of cultural ethos and social platform etiquette, your audience will be so engaged, they’ll do the work for you.
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