You’d be hard pressed to find a marketer — or a business owner or a CEO for that matter — who hasn’t been told their content needs to be sticky. Sticky content, after all, is one of today’s most cost effective tools for capturing reader eyes, sending traffic to your page or store and driving home branding.
But in a blogosphere and Twitterverse flooded with top 10 lists, repurposed content and users who pretty much vomit self-promotion in lieu of breathing (seriously guys, stop for a moment to be a human being!), it can be difficult to stand out. Knowing how to create sticky content means thinking like a storyteller and a multimedia mogul all at once — regardless of whether or not doing so is in your immediate job description.
Here are 4 ways to create that sticky content that will make your brand memorable and visible.
1. Keep it simple and concrete
Remember that old piece of writing advice from elementary school, Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS)? It definitely applies to content — all the more so if your subject area is nuanced, technical and complicated. Sure, a white paper written with the goal of convincing other experts of the brilliance of your proprietary technology can do with its fair share of technical lingo, but content is meant for consumers, and most are bound not to grasp the finer subtleties of what it is your company does.
Leave out the jargon
This is something we take for granted in traditional marketing. The Gaps of the world, for example, don’t take out 3 paged ads in the NY Times attempting to convince us consumers of the merits of “slide fasteners” and denim, or to usher us through each step of their manufacturing process. (No consumer says, “Boy howdy, I had no idea Gap jeans were dyed in vats quite so large, but now that I do, I’m definitely going to buy a pair. These Gap people sure are blue jeans experts!”). And yet, this is something content marketers and business owners often do as they attempt to create expertise content, loading their work with jargon and detail only a competitor could possibly understand.
Instead, keep that content information dense yet succinct. One thing I like to keep in mind as I write is that when my articles start to get over a certain length and I keep finding more and more holes to sniff down, that often means I’m really working on more than one post at once. When this happens, considers doing a theme month or a series for that subject. It’s much better, after all, to turn your website into a resource center with multiple linked-to articles than to try and cram it all into one lengthy and convoluted post. Simply Business’ Resource Center is a great example of a business that does this well, with articles and links to just about every relevant small business owner topic under the sun.
Along similar lines, it’s important that each piece of content and the language it uses is very concrete. Analogies and visual language are great for this, especially when it comes to more difficult material. Readers will have a much better grasp of the matter at hand or the product described if they can see it in front of them. The more abstract the concept, the more crucial this becomes.
2. Embrace the unexpected
Hey guys, I don’t know if you knew this, but apparently exercise is good for you, and also the sky is blue, and also you should head over to my blog pronto to learn all about these fascinating topics and more.
Share headlines like these, and no one will read your content (or they will, and then they’ll mock you). This might seem obvious, but it’s a trap many content marketers fall into as they jump onto a trending news topic just a little too late, rely too heavily on repurposed content that’s not so much redone as it is reposted, or just have a bad sense about what’s stale and what’s fresh (here’s a hint: if it’s growing green mold or if a Google search unearths millions of links for your proposed article title, chuck it).
Test a negative headline
Truly sticky content — and in fact, any content that goes viral in the end — has either a big dose or even just a little pinch of the unexpected. This could include trying out a negative headline like “30 Things you Should Not Share on Social Media“. Unexpected moments are easy to capture and share when you’ve really got something surprising on your hands, like a discovery in your product research that an old wive’s tale is actually true, or breaking news in your industry that changes everything. However, on more of a day to day basis, capturing the unexpected is often a matter of framing. Something like, “Exercise is good for you” might not be anything new, but “5 Weird Things Running Does to Your Brain” or “When Exercise is Actually Bad for You” make interesting twists that will hook readers, even if each of them is in reality a different way of saying the same old thing.
3. Tell a story
If “tell a story with your content” sounds self-evident, good — it should! As countless writers, politicians and other leaders have discovered, a good storyteller can make just about any topic or argument interesting or palatable. Unfortunately, this is something that often falls by the wayside in too many content marketing approaches, which again focus on overwhelming readers with expertise or providing a few quick tips; others simply throw in the towel from the get go on making a boring industry interesting.
Use an anecdote
But making any topic compelling doesn’t have to be hard. Quick anecdotes, for instance, are a great way to spice things up and give readers someone to root for or identify with, whether the anecdote is about your personal experience, the process of developing your new product, a customer’s experience with your work, or simply an emotional moment. On that note, don’t shy away from those emotions because you’re worried about being judged or viewed as unprofessional, as they’re often the most compelling part of the story. Not only are we hardwired to attune to stories, but everybody also loves a good underdog, and sharing your emotions makes you the compelling protagonist in your own story.
And of course, whether it’s just a glimpse in that anecdote or your whole post is a story, don’t forget the importance of plotting with a distinct beginning (presentation or problem), middle (the problem reaches it’s very peak and emotions run high) and end (resolution to problem). Pacing is crucial in storytelling; get it right, and you’ll have more shares than you can track.
4. Integrate multiple kinds of content into one
It goes without saying that some of the best content out there is interactive, whether that means simply making a few directional choices in an infographic, playing a game or participating in a contest. Interactive content keeps readers on the page and greatly increases shares, especially if there are incentives for doing so.
But interactive content won’t do a marketer any good if it’s entirely unrelated to the brand, brand voice or brand mission. To keep things relevant so that you can establish expertise, it’s often important to integrate multiple kinds of content into one. Two Little Fleas provides a good example with “Medical Fix or Fraud?”
Here, you start with a fun quiz that tests user knowledge of old medical wives tales; should this have shown up on a medical site, it would help establish medical expertise, but on Two Little Fleas it acts as an unexpected look at common issues, while demonstrating the site’s leadership as a gaming site. The site also provides an infographic on the topic, which can then be easily shared across the web or embedded onto the other blog. In this way, “Medical Fix or Fraud?” fits all the criteria of sticky content: it’s unexpected, concise, interactive, and fully shareable.
As we all attempt to drink from the fire hose that is internet content, the importance of making sticky content can’t be underestimated. With a little storytelling flare and a nose that can sniff out the good stuff, you should be there in no time.