If you’re reading this blog, chances are you work in the PR or digital marketing industries. And, if you work in those industries, chances are you are responsible for content development for you company or clients. And if you’re responsible for content development, you’re always looking for best practices, ways you can craft your content different to deliver on results.
Then you see a post like this one from BuzzSumo in your LinkedIn feed. “How to write engaging B2B headlines: Analysis of 10 million articles shared on LinkedIn.”
YES! Best practice research! This will help me crush my job! My content will get clicks. My clients will be happy! I will be successful and make millions of dollars! (OK, let’s not get crazy)
And while this research is somewhat interesting. And it is rooted in research. And, it is exhaustive (not sure how many scrolls I had to make to complete). It’s also research I feel like I’ve seen about 145 times in the last 3-5 years.
And that’s exactly why you should ignore it.
If you read the entire BuzzSumo post, you’ll learn:
- Posts starting with “How to” vastly outperformed all other posts.
- “How to” and lists posts dominate B2B headlines.
- “The future of” was the phrase used most often in B2B headlines
None of those “insights” is even mildly surprising. In fact, these are known facts to virtually anyone who’s cracked a computer open in the last 5-7 years.
And, I see posts using these structures every day in my feeds. To the point where my Feedly is FULL of either “list” posts or “how to” posts. In fact, I’ve almost come to ignore these posts altogether for that exact reason.
I tend to think others may be doing the same thing–or WILL be doing the same thing soon. Because this “how to” and “list” post content is completely dominating the internet.
It’s everywhere. Facebook. LinkedIn. Twitter. You name the social network (outside of maybe Instagram), and you’ll see these posts. A LOT of them.
This brings me to my point. Sure, these posts are popular. And, according to this data, they “work” (meaning, simply, they get clicks). But, when EVERYONE else is doing the SAME THING doesn’t that worry you? Aren’t you concerned your content will become part of the sea of content that people can’t discern? I am. You should be, too.
One of my central social media marketing themes I’ve tried to follow since the very beginning is this: When everyone else is going one direction, run screaming the other direction.
The other problem I see with this research is that it doesn’t account for the artistic, or creative side, of writing. I mean, writing isn’t a scientific endeavor. That’s not why most of us went into this profession. So, as much as the data geeks want to make writing a scientific process, it’s just not.
This is why I laugh when I see stats and graphs like this from the article above:
Really, the NUMBER FIVE is the top number starting B2B headlines? Give me a break. There’s no way that matters. And there’s no way I’m paying attention to that when I’m writing a headline. Complete overkill.
Or, this stat/graphic from the same article:
No way–“The” is the most popular single word that starts B2B headlines? THAT’S GROUNDBREAKING RESEARCH! This graphic and research is almost useless–I see no way you can use this in your headline crafting.
Why? Because writing good headlines is an art form–not a science.
Yes, better understanding what makes a headline get clicks is valuable information. But, it’s not like you can, or should, piece together a headline based on this info–like a robot. In fact, that’s where this is all going. If you were to follow the guidance in this article, we’re very close to robots writing our headlines.
Again, say it with me, writing is an ART FORM–not science.
We’ve all heard about the “storification” (yeah, I just made that word up) of the social web and how it represents the future of social. And how companies should start paying attention because “stories” are the new news feed (that’s questionable at best, in my view).
But, we haven’t seen too many good examples of companies using that “story” functionality creatively.
Which is why I immediately paused when I saw this video from Walmart in my feed last week.
You’ll notice Walmart repurposed a string of Snapchat stories (I think) and incorporated it into this video they they put together and shared on its Walmart Today Facebook channel.
Pretty interesting, right?
I actually found this video interesting for a number of reasons because I think it represents three big trends we may end up seeing much more of the months/years ahead:
1: Repurposing “stories” across other social media
Haven’t seen too many brands do this effectively yet, but Walmart seems to have repurposed Snapchat Stories into Facebook/YouTube content (if you’re wondering how to do that, here’s a nice tutorial). This isn’t exactly groundbreaking work, but it is damn efficient as Walmart was already grabbing the video content via phone on location. That video content then served as the bulk of this short-form social video. We’re always talking about ways to make your content work harder for you–perfect example right here.
2: Social company spokespeople are becoming a “must” not a “want”
Another trend this post highlights is the need for the new wave of “social corporate spokespeople.” In the video, you see Bo and Antonio, Walmart “DJs” right at the top. These two are, in fact, Walmart spokespeople. Not in the traditional way you might think about spokespeople–more in a social way. These are the storytellers of 2017. And, they have the skills required for many social stories in 2017. They can get in front of a camera and convince employees/customers to talk and react to the camera (a key skill many in our industry DON’T have). They can put a story together. They have a feel for what will work via social channels. These are the skills Bo and Antonio bring to the table–and they’re going to be skills more companies look for in the years ahead, given our preference for video content online.
3: How do we find these company spokespeople?
Usually, you’ll go out and try to hire them. Which will be tough, given the current landscape and tight job market. But, what’s really interesting in this example is what Walmart did. Instead of trying to go out and HIRE social spokespeople (these two were really hired as radio DJs, but for this example, they’re also social spokespeople), they looked internally. They held a contest to find the first two Walmart Radio DJs who would run Walmart Radio–what a cool job for two lucky Walmart employees who had an interest in radio. And, that’s exactly what happened for Bo and Antonio.
ICYMI: Renowned YouTuber, Casey Neistat blew everyone’s minds earlier this week when he released the following video:
It already has 3.9 million views as of 6:50 p.m. on Wed., Dec. 21.
It’s the result of a partnership between Neistat and Samsung.
And, I believe it represents the future of content.
Because this is what it’s going to take to get attention and cut through the massive clutter in 2017 and beyond.
A mega-drone donned in holiday lights towing a human being around town on a snowboard and then lifting him high into the air (and if you think it’s a fake, just watch Neistat debunk those theories here).
This one example illustrates perfectly that the future of content is:
- WAY outside the box you’re thinking in now. Again, a guy being towed by a mega-drone and hoisted into the air. That’s some next-level crazy content.
- Interactive and mixed media. You did notice the link to the 360 behind-the-scenes footage at the tail end, right?
- Created by only the committed. If you watch the second video above, Neistat has two interesting statements: 1) He pitched this idea more than a year ago to Samsung, and 2) The Samsung folks worked on building this mega-drone for more than a year! Now THAT’S commitment. And, that’s the level of commitment it’s going to take to win the content game in the years ahead.
The future of content is creating content that’s far outside what you’re thinking about now. Now, that’s going to take time and talent. But, brands may trade talent and time for volume (you’re already starting to see this with brands like Target–go see how many times they posted on Facebook in 2016). Creating one monster, break-through piece of content like this instead of producing 24 smaller pieces might be worth it (read: IS worth it).
The other important and interesting facet to this content case study–Samsung used Neistat as much for his ability to produce amazing content as it did for his reach.
Many brands approach influencers and think only about the REACH they’ll get from the influencer.
“We want her to talk about our brand on your Instagram channel–she has 5.6 million followers!”
“Could you work our product into your next YouTube video. I see your videos routinely get 1.5 million views.”
Reach is the big draw when it comes to influencers–and for good reason. But, CONTENT can be (and should be) equally as important. In this case, Samsung took advantage of both. But, without the CONTENT, Neistat’s reach doesn’t mean much, does it?
I think Samsung is on the front edge of a larger trend around brands using influencers more for content generation than for reach. Content brands will also use on their own social channels.
Back to content for a moment. I know this is a pretty extreme example. I know most brands aren’t going to create videos with huge drones dragging Santa Claus around town. But, the larger point remains fairly simple: Get hugely creative with your social content, or remain irrelevant.
I really do think it’s as simple as that.
I’m sorry, but I have to call BS on this recent Contently post.
I’ve always been somewhat of a skeptic when it comes to Coca-Cola’s brand journalism initiative: Coke Journey, which launched back in 2012.
The big reason for my skepticism? Why would anyone visit the Coke web site for “news and information”–even if that “news and information” was related to Coke?
I get the brand journalism thing when you’re a company that’s built on thought leadership–GE and GE Reports comes to mind.
I get brand journalism when you’re Microsoft and you’re using long-form employee stories as a vehicle to aid recruiting and brand.
I get brand journalism when you’re General Mills and you’re using stories as a way to drum up additional media coverage (as well as for the opportunity to tell your stories, your way).
I get all that–and those are fantastic case studies of brand journalism done well. And a decent amount of what Coke is doing with “Journey” does actually fall into those same categories. But, Coke as hub of news and information as outlined in this Contently piece? C’mon now.
So yeah, I’m skeptical.
Let’s take a look at a few key excerpts from the Contently post to find out why:
“For Journey Arabia, content inspiration comes largely from current events, since the target audience is looking for news. Journey Arabia uses social listening to stay in tune with public opinion on stories impacting the Arab world and connects them to product events and announcements.”
OK, I’m going to sound like the Ad Contrarian here for a few moments. “Content inspiration comes largely from currently events, since the target audience is looking for news.” This sounds a lot like: 1) A marketer who’s taking themselves way too seriously, or 2) A vendor who really thinks highly of themselves. Honestly, no one is looking to Coke for news. No one. People look to CNN, the New York Times and WaPo for news. People look to Coke when they want a cold soda. Pretty simple. Even if you make the argument that people want news and information about Coke, are people really seeking that information out? I just can’t believe that there are tens of thousands of people who are looking for Coke news and information each day.
“The bedrock stories are balanced by lighter fare, like a quick-hitter on how to take better Christmas photos, that performs well on social.”
This is exactly what I’m alluding to in the headline. What does “how to take a better Christmas photo” have to do with Coke? Nothing. So, why are they writing about it? Because it “performs well on social.” This is the part I don’t get. I understand those kinds of stories perform well on social. But, just because Coke gets 2.5M likes on a post that talks about how to take a great Christmas photo, does that mean more people are going to buy more Coke or think more highly of Coke? Color me skeptical.
“Moms and dads are the gatekeepers of the weekly shop. If we can give them more information that helps them make informed decisions, it will help them during their purchase.”
You gotta love this quote. Allow me to put my “Dad” hat on for a moment, because this speaks directly to me. I’m partly responsible for the health and well-being of my child. My wife and I buy the food that goes in our kids’ bodies. What information is Coke going to give me to help make a more “informed decision” on buying a product that has pretty much been proven to be poor to downright bad for your kids’ health? I mean, I enjoy a cold Coke every once in a while as much as the next person, but “make more informed decisions?” C’mon now. For proof on how Coke is addressing this, see the video below. Again, I actually like Coke (although we don’t offer it as an option in our home). And creating and publishing stories like this that talk about health and fitness are fantastic–just not if you’re a company that’s making a product that actually creates the opposite effect. Just seems very odd to me.
OK, your turn. Anyone else a skeptic of Coke Journey?