Creating Effective Content in An Overloaded, Oversharing Digital Age

Community Involvement Marketing is a collaborative blog post written by Idea Creative Marketing contributing authors. It’s how we do things around here.

We are in the age of content overload! So much content about everything and then repeated a gazillion times. Mark Schaefer explains in The Content Code that internet information is projected to grow 500% by 2020. You’ll never see 98% of that content. As marketers, our job get a little harder every day fighting the game of being seen. We fight to produce, share, get noticed, get shared, and to be remembered. According to Mashable, 571 new websites are published each day, 350,000 Tweets are Tweeted, 48 hours of YouTube videos are uploaded and 2.73 million blog posts are written and published.

There an unreal amount of information at our fingertips, more platforms out there to connect and socialize on, and the ways and amount of what we are sharing has changed.  If you pull up your feed on most of your social media platforms you’ll see pictures of weddings, babies, travel, and career moves. While these topics still dominate the news feed, we see more and more individuals sharing sales, product pushes, meals, dirty laundry (both the dirty clothes and the emotional spews,) strong religious, social and political blurbs.

Now before we get too far into the “sharing” process, keep in mind that the age of Internet sharing started with opinion blogs so the idea of sharing personal opinions isn’t that wild. So what are the reasons people share on social media? As marketers, it is critical to understand why people share to better mold and shape content that people will want to share and will share.

What motivates a person to share? As you probably know, because we’ve heard it a billion times, people share content (and buy) from those they know, like and trust. Most people share because of relationships between connections. Research studies across all industries show that content being shared has more to do with the reader’s relationship to others than the relationship with the publisher. “Likes” on a post are the equivalent of a pat on the back or an “I agree with you” when having a discussion in person.

According to a study performed by the New York Times Customer Insight Group titled The Psychology of Sharing, there are five key reasons people share content.

  • To Support A Cause
  • To Build and Nurture Relationships
  • For Self-Fulfillment
  • To Define Ourselves
  • For Entertainment

84%

We also know that people tend to “overshare” on social media (i.e. the dirty laundry posts, the everything I ate today post, the detailed list of daily activities post, etc.) While social sharing is the way our generation and the generations to follow get to know each other and communicate with the world, we can’t help but wonder “how much is too much?” We are in a world where pictures and content has the ability to reach the masses much faster. We can tweet, post a picture or update a status with a few clicks and let hundreds or even thousands of people know how we’re feeling on a particular issue.  

There have been studies done on the over sharing theory.  Researchers at Harvard University found that sharing personal thoughts and feelings activates the brain’s neurochemical reward system in a bigger way than when sharing the thoughts and feelings of others.  Even with privacy settings in place, social media is never really “private.”  And because people tend to have more access to our inside lives, it makes it easier to share more intimate details.

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Researchers believe reality TV has also played a role in the age of over sharing.  After seeing how the personal lives of regular people have turned them into pseudo celebrities, some hope to cash in on the “fame game.” Another study reports that young people (<25) think it’s “cool” to share too much.  Posts of activities that could potentially come back to haunt someone in the future are done on a regular basis by many students. According to that study those who were under sharing were labeled “boring.” For many people, the desire to be popular outweighs the desire to be respected.

I know you’re thinking “yeah, this is old news…the classic over share but what does this have to do with content and social media marketing?” The age of sharing of what is generally considered inappropriate has created a certain percentage of the population that has no compass to gauge what is appropriate information nor do they care. More ads get ignored or overlooked because they aren’t “edgy” enough. The ability to earn, let alone keep, the attention of an audience online is dropping steadily.

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So what is it that causes people to over share? Elizabeth Bernstein of the Wall Street Journal explains “This effort is known as ‘self regulation’ and here is how it works,” she writes. “When having a conversation, we can use up a lot of mental energy trying to manage the other person’s impression of us. We try to look smart, witty, and interesting, but the effort required to do this leaves less brain power to filter what we say and to whom.” That’s great but again what does this mean for content and social media marketing? When people don’t have enough brain power to filter what they say and share, they don’t have the capacity to remember it either.

What Makes Content Stick-What can we learn from the massive amounts of research that exists on social sharing?

  1. People want to be Involved and be in the know. Provide value to your readers and make them feel connected. A sense of belonging and the feeling of importance is very powerful. Keep in mind the attention span online and make your content easy to comprehend and actionable. Don’t misinterpret “easy to understand” for simple because complexity is neurologically necessary to make a memory.
  2. People like to talk about themselves. Whether it’s to let others what they like/dislike or more self-indulgent, you have to let your audience voice opinions and let them know they are being heard. When someone feels like they are being heard, they feel appreciated and appreciation leads to loyalty. Create content that identifies a reader, “do you,” “are you” titles tend to grab attention. Don’t stop at the title, position your content to help the reader identify with the content.
  3. People like people. The internet is all about connecting to others and social media channels only exist to create personal connections. When you produce content, try to end your post with a question that encourages comments or at the very least thought. When people consciously make an effort to relate their experience to your content they are more likely to remember the content.
  4. People like to be popular. The power of sharing is when you find something you can relate to and find interesting enough to share you get excited when someone likes, comments or shares the information you provided. As marketers we can relate to this more than anyone. We use all kinds of tools, trackers and analytics to see the engagement levels on our posts. Make sure your content makes your reader feel valuable.
  5. People share what they love. If you cannot connect to an emotion, you aren’t going to build a relationship because you’ll never earn the attention. People share and buy into what they trust and love. Make your readers fall in love.

Take a look at the engagement levels on your posts. Sort them out by highest engagement. What do those posts with the highest levels of engagement have in common?

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