A challenge that remains today (just as it did over a decade ago for web designers, online marketers, and content creators) is understanding the way social content works to enhance marketing strategies and attract site visitors, qualified leads, and online consumers.
Part of the mystery surrounding social media as a marketing tool may be due to the fact that it is as much in flux as the living and breathing users who proliferate social networking channels. While social content is by no means "alive" in the most literal sense of the word, it does respond to the ebb and flow of the human counterparts who complete the social media circle.
When an image or body of text becomes an overnight sensation on the Internet and is shared, linked, distributed, and talked about by social media users across the globe, that content is said to have "gone viral." As much as anyone, public corporation or private individual, would like to create social content that has all the earmarks of an Internet epidemic, there is actually no reliable way to definitively predict the content's viral potential.
Conversely, however, reasonably accurate predictions can be made regarding page rank success for websites and landing pages that have been designed with all the do's and don't's of search engine optimization (SEO) in mind. The difference between these two examples, search engine page rank and the likelihood of virulence in social content, is like night and day. One relies on well-defined algorithms and the other relies on uncontrollable emotions.
How Viral Social Content Gets That Way
Successful social content is successful because it evokes strong emotions in the observer, whether those emotions are positive or negative. The important factor is that the individual is moved outside their normal range of emotion and compelled to feel strongly about what they are seeing or reading. Cute kitten pictures don't become viral in the social media sphere because they occasionally evoked a voluntary reaction of, "Hmm, that's cute." They explode across the Internet like an unstoppable warm and fuzzy juggernaut because they wrenched an involuntary and nearly tearful "Awwww, how adorable!" reaction from those in the social audience.
That's all well and good, you may be saying, but how can I turn my online marketing content into a warm and fuzzy juggernaut? While there are certain "rules" you should play by when crafting your social content, such as defining your target audience beforehand and selectively choosing social media networks through which to make your online presence known, there are also factors that exist in a more gray area and are therefore harder to define.
Tips for Crafting Attention-Getting Social Content
Perhaps more important than anything else, your content should be utterly original. If you are producing cookie-cutter content or cutting and pasting the work of others and claiming it as your own, you've already lost the social media marketing battle. Online users have an extremely short attention span, a few seconds at most, so you have the blink of an eye, literally, to catch their attention.
You can't do that if you're giving them content they've already seen a dozen times. Whether you are using images, text, or both in your social content, you should always strive to provide a unique and fresh perspective to your target audience. Your content should immediately catch their eye and their attention, and it should make them want to follow your links or calls-to-action farther into your sales funnel until they've reached the ending that you've chosen for them.
Giving the User Control
Another element of successful social content is that it moves an online user forward in a way that seems natural rather than pushy or full of overt salesmanship. Ultimately, you want your visitor to meet your goals and objectives while still feeling as though they've been completely in control of their decision-making process from start to finish.
Above all else, however, social content is social just as people are social. It uses the human aspect to become something more than just words and pictures, and it is that human aspect that makes it that much more appealing to your human audience. Putting a label or definition on what, precisely, makes social media content more or less successful than any other online content is a difficult challenge that will continue to remain with us, but there are ways you can whittle down the obstacles to more manageable size if you think in terms of emotion rather than logic.