6 Ways to Make your Content Sticky

It was a sparkling sunny day on the harbour and I was attending a cocktail party hosted by a global supplier for the end of year celebrations.6 Ways to Make your Content Sticky

The sales manager for the company and I started having a chat about web hosting. After about three sentences I realized that every second phrase was unintelligible. I was only on my first glass of wine so my intelligence at that stage was still above water, so it wasn’t the drink.

I understood terms such as “multiple redundancy” , “mission critical” and “virtual private server” but I was drowning in acronyms and industry “speak”.

What was happening was  the often experienced but rarely mentioned “Curse of Knowledge“. This concept was first coined in the book “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” which stated,

The better we get at generating great ideas—new insights and novel solutions—in our field of expertise, the more unnatural it becomes for us to communicate those ideas clearly. That’s why knowledge is a curse.”

What was happening to me on the harbour cruise was a conversation from someone who was both very intelligent and knowledgeable in his field, but his ability to communicate clearly had become submerged and lost in a sea of jargon and acronyms.

It was a lesson that I didn’t forget.

“Sticky” Content is Memorable

When it comes to creating content there are many ways to communicate on the web. You can tweet, you can write an article on your blog or you can use multimedia. This could be a video or an image.

Infographics are popular and allow you to communicate using the best of the worlds of text and visual media.

Communicating ideas whether it is simple text on Twitter or rich multimedia on YouTube is powerful and sticky if you achieve two things.

  1. Make ideas sticky (memorable)
  2. Make content contagious (shareable)

The book “Made to Stick” provides 6 principles that explores the strategies and tactics to  make sure that your ideas are not forgotten in a global web of froth, fluff and noise.

So how can you communicate ideas that are memorable and shareable on a social web that has 550 million competing websites?

What are the 6 Principles of Sticky Ideas?

Not many ideas can manage to tick all the six boxes, If you can manage two or three of these principles then you are well on your way to succeeding as a communicator.

Principle 1: Simplicity

I remember my older cousin telling me that I used words that were too complicated. He was right. I now  try to use words and phrases that are simple but memorable. That is my goal

A quote from  “Making it Stick”

“Saying something short is not the mission—sound bites are not the ideal. Proverbs are the ideal. We must create ideas that are both simple and profound. The Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you) is the ultimate model of simplicity: a one-sentence statement so profound that an individual could spend a lifetime learning to follow it.

Keeping it simple is achievable for all of us, we just need to keep reminding ourselves that not everyone knows what you do.

Principle 2: Unexpectedness

We often slip into the communicating the same way day and day out. Creating impact is often achieved through the unexpected and surprise.

A quote from  “Making it Stick”

How do we get our audience to pay attention to our ideas, and how do we maintain their interest when we need time to get the ideas across? We need to violate people’s expectations.

The best way to get people’s attention is to break their existing thought patterns directly.

Principle 3: Concreteness

When we communicate it is often abstract but life is not abstract. Newspaper editors know this “If it bleeds it leads“. They know they need to keep it real.

A quote from  “Making it Stick”

Naturally sticky ideas are full of concrete images—ice-filled bathtubs, apples with razors—because our brains are wired to remember concrete data. In proverbs, abstract truths are often encoded in concrete language: “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.

Principle 4: Credibility

We all know that an expert provides credibility. That is why they keep turning up in criminal trials, because they are believable. The other class of authorities are celebrities. This is why you see advertising with actors promoting products.

Another way to add credibility is through statistics. Credibility is often carried by some one who has experienced it for themselves and is prepared to state it publicly. Try before you but is a powerful message. This is also know as testable credentials.

A quote from  “Making it Stick”

Sticky ideas have to carry their own credentials. We need ways to help people test our ideas for themselves—a “try before you buy” philosophy for the world of ideas“.

 Principle 5: Emotions

Mother Teresa said “If I look at the mass I will never act , If I look at one I will” Charities have long since figured out the Mother Teresa effect. They know that donors respond better to individual causes than abstract causes supported by statistics. That is why a compelling story about an individual will produce a greater effect and emotional response.

A quote from  “Making it Stick”

How do we get people to care about our ideas? We make them feel something“.

Principle 6: Stories

The power of stories is two dimensional. Firstly it  provides simulation (knowledge how to act) and secondly it empowers people through inspiration (motivation to act). This generates action. This is the final chapter in making a difference in people’s lives and communicating an idea. A strong story will have longevity. Inspirational stories take a life on of their own, especially when you have a social web multiplying their effectiveness.

A quote from  “Making it Stick”

 “How do we get people to act on our ideas? We tell stories. Firefighters naturally swap stories after every fire, and by doing so they multiply their experience

 What About You?

Have you been using any of these six principles in your communication and content?

How do you communicate your ideas? Do you tell stories or tap into emotions?

Have you forgotten to keep it simple and been dragged into the morass of the “curse of knowledge”

I look forward to hearing your stories

More Reading

Image By Emily Barney 

Comments

  • Michela Stribling

    Fabulous, no-nonsense post, Jeff. You might consider pushing your point about stories to the very top; powerful story telling not only engages people, but can convince them to do things they might have otherwise considered impossible. Think about Winston Churchill motivating a frightened nation to take a stand during WWII. In my experience, the best stories contain all of the elements you mention in your post; and the best leaders (in both business and in politics) are often those who can spin the best yarn.

    • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

      Glad you enjoyed it Michela. On moving stories to #1, I like to keep the best till last! :)

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    That is a big issue that I see with lots of B2B content, it’s too advanced. If you use too much industry jargon, it could turn off potential business. At the same time you don’t want to really “dumb it down” either. It’s important to find that place in the middle and create content that attracts people at all stages of the buying cycle.

  • Social Babies

    As the owner of a social media agency that caters to the small business community, I can say with confidence that social jargon scares the crap out of business owners. On our website, we use laymen terms when describing the services we offer. For example, we refer to Social Networking as “meeting new people” and Community Management as “talking to your fans and followers”. At least for the small business community, you have to keep it simple.

    • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

      I love those terms. Keeping it simple works every time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/thebarrydollar Barry Dollar

    #5&6 is my favorite > A picture, a story, a movie,
    anything that draws us in to want to ‘be there’ is magical and powerful.
    People want to be deeply touched. We long for that. http://churchwebsocial.com

  • Carolyn Stearns

    I saw evidence that these items work well in a blog post made by playing with my 3 year old granddaughter, what started out to entertain her has carried over in hits on the blog because who can’t resist seeing what happens when a bunny visits V. Sattui Winery in Napa Valley CA. This was instinct directed and fun.
    http://www.carolynstearnsstoryteller.blogspot.com/2012/07/bunny-visits-v-sattui-winery-napa.html

  • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

    Thanks Shelley for your kind compliment. It is great to know I can make a difference.

  • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

    I do like the hashtag. I think the #gettingsticky hashtag could help in distributing the idea of making content stick! :)

  • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

    That is a very good question. Maybe work on our story telling skills?

  • mstina

    These “simple” words have inspired me to better develop what I say when I share with my students. I am going to tuck this away for the start of school. Thank you!

  • ODigMa

    Thank you so much, good read. Now i know what to put in my blog:)

  • writing service

    The best communicators have the ability to frame their message so that it is immediately legible to the people they are sharing it with. It is important to understand the technical details of what you are trying to communicate so that you can make them accessible to people without that technical knowledge and show them how it impacts them in their day to day lives. People that parrot technical jargon may have learned the information, but they have failed to make it a part of their thinking thoroughly enough to communicate it simply and legibly.

  • writing service

    The best communicators have the ability to frame their message so that it is immediately legible to the people they are sharing it with. It is important to understand the technical details of what you are trying to communicate so that you can make them accessible to people without that technical knowledge and show them how it impacts them in their day to day lives. People that parrot technical jargon may have learned the information, but they have failed to make it a part of their thinking thoroughly enough to communicate it simply and legibly.

  • http://twitter.com/sylvainww Sylvain Gauchet

    Thanks for the read and the reminders from Making it Stick

  • http://workado.com/ Justin McGill @ Workado

    Great quotes from a great book!

  • http://www.passionatebloggingpoint.com/ Naveed Ahmed

    Yes, in addition to your 6 ways to make your content sticky, I suggest we use Social Media in such a way that our posts and shares demand user engagement. For example asking questions, putting up puzzles to solve, fill in the blanks, sharing jokes etc. help us get our followers engaged with our content. This way, we can get more sticky content and even increase our followers too.