Why your content should encourage connection (not just with your brand)

Here are some of the titles of posts I recently shared on Facebook:

“22 signs you might actually be middle-aged”

“The great revolution of Manchester”

“Morrisons to be the first supermarket to donate all unsold food”

“Lend your voice to help raise awareness of male suicide”

A cartoon about marketing.

Why did I share these things? It wasn’t because I felt a deep affinity with the media outlets that shared these content pieces (although in most of these cases I do – who doesn’t love the Oatmeal?) or even some cases because I actually cared deeply about the pieces of content themselves – the reason I share the majority of the things I do on social media is to reinforce an idea of the kind of person I want to be perceived to be. In fact, without knowing me, you can probably infer quite a lot about me just from the links I have shared. So in the case of these links, a person who identifies strongly with being old and boring, someone who loves the city of Manchester, cares about social issues and works in marketing.

And I’m not alone. 68% of people share to give other people a “better sense of who they are and what they care about”. We don’t often share things because we think people should actually read the link, we share links so people think “oh Charlotte Crowley is interested in ___. That makes me feel ___ about her”.

I am a particularly strong example. As a blogger, I am a classic oversharer, and I could run into someone I haven’t spoken to since primary school and they’d probably know my favourite film is Fight Club and I’m training for my first marathon.

So how do you tap into this in content marketing?

You have to create a special club with an exclusive membership.

Buzzfeed does this especially well. As with my example above, it’s hard to resist a link entitled “22 things only [blanks] would understand” if you are said blank. And you’ll read it and you’ll laugh and you’ll feel a sense of self-identification and share it because you want to say “look how [blank] I am! This Buzzfeed post validates my [blank]ness”. And then your friends who also identify as [blanks] will like and comment and share and boom, a connection. You’ve created a special club and belonging feels good.

A good example of this is the running community. As a runner, I exhibit the runner stereotype of not being able to shut up about running ever. So I share running-related content often, because it 1) reinforces my identity as a runner and 2) helps me connect with my runner friends and simultaneously creates a club of people who understand the necessity to sleep in running clothes before an early run and regularly lose toenails.

This type of content does not have to be as “fluffy” as some of the content on Buzzfeed, however. People want to feel a connection to other people experiencing the same thing as them, whether that’s training for a marathon or looking for a new member of staff. The only thing this kind of content needs to be is specific and relevant with a strong identifying theme. So “20 things people who work in an office will understand” might work, but “15 things you’ll know if you work at a marketing agency” will.

These pieces of content don’t need to be silly, but funny definitely helps. And a well-placed GIF is never a bad idea in this type of content.

Pick topics people would be proud to share. “13 things only the office weirdo will understand” might not be as effective as “15 personality types you get in every office”, or “16 signs you’re the Mum of your office”.

This kind of content might not be super-serious, but it’s the kind of content people will want to read and want to share, and it will create that warm fuzzy feeling which is the holy grail for marketers.

Maybe that belongs in a list of 18 feelings only content marketers would understand…

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