It’s something that every brand wants to accomplish but many struggle. Social media and content marketing is still relatively new to many in 2019, so getting a firm grasp of how to drive engagement is not straightforward.
Traditional marketing did not have to take into account interaction and engagement. It spoke in a one-way fashion, without any concern of likes, comments and shares.
It’s a completely different story now and brands that fail to see this are falling behind. Creating engaging content is the key to developing a strong and loyal customer base in 2019. People want to see that your brand has personality, that you know your niche and care about your customers.
So, how do you create highly engaging content?
Understanding the Science Behind Social Media Sharing
Before we delve into things, let’s take a look at why we share things on social media. Think about when you scroll through your Facebook or Twitter feed – what makes you hit share or retweet?
In this sense, social media can be seen as a form of science. Those brands that fully understand the science between sharing and why people do it, generally have a higher success rate when it comes to content marketing.
The NY Times insights group conducted a study into this and found that there are 4 key reasons that motivate people to share:
- To define ourselves to others
- To bring valuable and entertaining content to others
- To grow and nourish relationships
- To get the word out about causes and brands we care about.
On top of these four key motivators are emotions. Emotions which compel people to react and share. According to a study by researchers at Penn’s Wharton School, the emotion of ‘awe’ is the strongest motivation behind sharing. This is followed by anger, anxiety, disgust, sadness and surprise.
So, put simply, if you can create content that stirs up some of the feelings above, it’s more likely to be shared.
Let’s take a look at some examples
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
Remember being nominated to have an ice bucket launched over your head? A challenge you had to complete within 24 hours. Despite that freezing water, this campaign to raise awareness of the relatively rare disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, raised $115 million.
So why did it go viral? It tied into the sharing motivator on causes we care about. People got behind the campaign and ‘took one for the team’ because it was all in aid of an important charity.
The number of celebrity participants also upped the ante, giving the campaign a great deal of social proof.
National Geographic June 2018 Cover
The National Geographic captured the attention of millions in June 2018 when it published a cover with what looked like an iceberg. On closer inspection, it highlights one of the biggest problems the world faces.
This was a cause that their loyal following could get right behind, hence the viral sharing. Again, a key motivator for people to share.
Burger King’s Quick Wit
When Kanye West declared his favourite restaurant was McDonalds, arch rival Burger King took a swift swipe at his opinion, creating the most liked branded tweet ever.
So why did it make such waves? Firstly, it’s entertaining. People love to see brands engaging in a ‘bit of banter’, it makes their content far more relatable and shareworthy.
Sometimes, reacting like this can be risky business, particularly for brands with reputations to uphold. However, in this instance, Burger King proved it was a risk worth taking.
Just from looking at the above examples, it’s clear to see that you have to impact a person emotionally for them to take action. Now we’ve covered the why behind sharing, let’s take a look at what you need to do to create highly engaging content.
Have a Purpose
Content with no purpose is pretty pointless. Everything you share, be it a blog, video or social media post should have a purpose. What are you trying to achieve?
Some key metrics you can use to decide on this are:
- To increase brand loyalty
- To entertain your audience
- More clicks through to your website
- Increased sales
- Blog or newsletter opt-ins
- Website conversions
- Post engagement
Content with a purpose packs more of a punch. Calls to action are clearer and the audience is more likely to engage.
Write for the Reader NOT the Search Engine
In 2019, brands that stuff their blogs with keywords don’t get repeat readers. Surprised? We thought not. Google has come a long way in the past few years and it can now differentiate between blogs that are there to get rankings and blogs for readers.
Quality is key. If a reader lands on your site and is faced with a blog that’s there for the sake of it, filled with keywords, they’re going to bounce right off. Google pays a lot of attention to bounce rate and this can seriously damage your search engine positioning.
So, when writing a new blog, focus on the reader. Please them, help them, entertain them – share with them content that they are going to enjoy. By adding this kind of value, they’ll be more likely to come back – which in turn looks great to Google.
Try to be Original
Ok, so this may seem tough, particularly if you’re in an industry with a lot of competition. The more brands blog, the more difficult it is to create stand-out content. But, this is so important.
It is all about thinking outside the box and not just writing about topics you think are popular. Start by mapping out the obvious topics and then delve into more specific areas that other businesses are unlikely to have covered yet – even if it seems a bit far out.
For example, let’s look at a make-up artist. The obvious blogs are on applying make-up, skincare tips and beauty hacks. If we look at the wider picture, this make-up artist could cover broader topics such as fashion, hair care and how to get more sleep. The point of this is that you don’t just have to talk about the service or products you offer.
In doing this, your blog will be less focused on what you offer and more on what your audience wants to read about.
Another way to make your content original is to talk about personal experiences. Share behind the scenes stories about your company, everyday goings-on and ask employees to write their own blogs. You can guarantee that no one else will have this exact content. Just be sure to make it relevant and interesting for your audience – don’t just talk about the office dog for the sake of it!
As humans, our brains react differently to stories. We love a beginning, middle and end. We love to hear about protagonists and how they failed, then succeeded. Any wonder why the movie industry is one of the largest in the world?
Stories are far easier to relate to than pure facts. The more we incorporate stories into our marketing, the more our audience will relate. When we hear of an emotionally-charged event, our brain releases Dopamine which makes the story much easier to remember and recall.
For instance, we all remember the tale Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but do you remember the text on that leaflet you briefly looked at this morning? Facts and figures just don’t stick as well.
Using storytelling to advance a marketing goal is a far more effective method than simply relaying details of an offer you’re pushing.
Take a personal trainer for example. Instead of sharing introductory offers and discounts, telling the story of how a working mum lost 3 stone against all odds (with plenty of details) would be more effective and relatable.
Write Compelling Headlines
This, after all, is how you are going to hook your audience in. It’s no good writing a killer blog, full of valuable information if your headline is weak. What’s going to make your audience click through to your content?
It’s important to get the balance when writing your headlines so you don’t just give everything away. For example, if you name your blog ‘Men lose weight faster than women’ you are simply stating the conclusion of your blog, leaving readers with no reason to click. Instead, consider something more compelling like ‘5 reasons why men lose weight faster than women.’ Show that readers are going to learn something new by clicking.
Buzzsumo analysed 100 million headlines and shared the top phrases that drive the most engagement on Facebook. The top 10 are:
- Will make you
- This is why
- Can we guess
- Only X in
- The reason is
- Are freaking out
- X stunning photos
- Tears of joy
- Is what happens
- Make you cry
You can see from looking at some of those phrases that they are designed to provoke curiosity and emotion. This is a great study to refer back to when coming up with your own.
Make Sure your Information is Accurate
As a specialist in your field, the information you share must be accurate. This goes without saying really, but always make sure you do your research. What may have been right a year ago may not necessarily be the case now.
If people catch incorrect information, they’ll easily discredit your blog which is not what you want. When sharing facts, always double-check and link back to the study or research where possible. Not only does this add credibility to what you’re saying, but it also provides readers with the means to do extra research if they wish.
Choose Images Well
When sharing your content on social, you have milliseconds to grab your reader’s attention. Generally, when scrolling through your news feed, it’s not the text that makes you stop, it’s the image or video.
You could spend time putting together a truly informative blog with a click-worthy headline but if your image is poor, users will probably just keep on scrolling. So, be selective when sourcing images.
Stock photos are ok, but originals are better. If you have the means to take your own (great) images then do so. They’re likely to stand out more as you can guarantee your audience won’t have seen them before. When taking photos, bear in mind that they have to stand out and command attention – here’s a handy article to help.
User-generated content is another great way to get attention. When users share their own images of your products or services, they are generally taken more seriously. There’s less bias and Photoshopping, providing an authenticity that potential customers can relate to.
To gather user-generated content, create a hashtag so customers can tag you in their pictures. You could also run competitions or offer added incentives for people to share their purchases.
To Sum Up
When it comes to creating engaging content, it’s all about emotion. If you can leverage a person’s feelings, you’re far more likely to motivate them to take action. Always keep this in mind when developing new content ideas.
Think, can people relate to this? Do they need this information? Is this going to make them laugh or cry? Is this a cause they care about and can get behind? Obviously, one piece of content is not going to tick all those boxes but as long as it does one well, it should garner a strong level of engagement.