By Gregory Ciotti.
Everybody is all abuzz about “creating buzz” these days.
We as marketers operate in an industry obsessed with content that is “buzzwothy”, “viral”, and all other sorts of names that aim to describe a single scenario: getting people to talk about your business. Let me tell you the tale of a truly buzzworthy endeavor by an internet business: back in 1999, Mark Hughes convinced the town of Halfway, Oregon to rename itself Half.com to generate publicity for the growing e-commerce start-up. Needless to say, Mr. Hughes was a guy that really knew how to create buzz, and in 2005, he wrote down his techniques in the wonderful book known as Buzzmarketing. In it, he outlines the six buttons you need to push to get people talking… every single time. With enough exposure and a form of content that pushes these buttons, people will be guaranteed to spread the word. Much of Mark’s book overlaps with the recent research from Wharton Business School on “What Makes Online Content Go Viral” (specifically with the types of emotions triggered), so today I’d like to break down how YOU can use the 6 buttons of buzzmarketing to create content that gets people talking.Let’s begin!
The very first of Mark’s “buttons of buzz” is the taboo.
Taboo content is defined as something that is “labeled by a society as improper, unacceptable, prohibited, or profane.” A lot of people jump right to conclusion that taboo content must be scandals, sex, and bathroom humor, but that’s because the context is out of focus: instead of creating content that’s taboo to society, YOU need to create content that is taboo for your industry and community.
Take a stance on something that will make people in your industry do a double-take, and then back it up with evidence! Many bloggers say they hate pop-ups and just “know” their audience hates them too, so when Dan Zarella showed the data on why pop-ups still work, he was engaging in the creation of taboo content specifically for his industry (online marketing).
Things that are unusual are those that just don’t seem to fit in. The kind of stuff that we simply have to look at, not even because we want to, but because the call is just too strong for us to ignore. As you know, content doesn’t always have to mean blog posts, and when it comes to getting attention in spammy areas like forex trading, creativity is king: one supreme example is MahiFX’s You vs. John Paulson. That page allows you to create your own content, an infographic style breakdown of how quickly billionaire investor John Paulson earns your entire yearly salary (ouch!). It’s 100% strange: it outright insults your current earnings, it requires your input for the content to even be there, and it even mixes in a bit of the taboo! (Comparing salaries).
…and yet, it’s hard to look away! It’s been mentioned and shared a ton of times, and here I am now sharing it with you again, showcasing the power of creating unusual content that gets mentioned and linked to.
In the Wharton study mentioned above, one of the “emotions of high arousal” was that of anger, and here is where it comes into play: in the form of truly outrageous content that gets us fired up and tripping over ourselves to leave feedback. The study cites articles like What Red Ink? Wall Street Paid Hefty Bonuses, and it comes as no surprise that news articles make for a great source of outrageous content. One that is closer to marketer’s hearts is the recent piece on Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25, a piece of “flame-bait” that did it’s job so well, it hooked a bunch of so-called marketers into leaving long-winded comments on why the author was wrong… and even resulted in a ton of them sharing the piece in outrage! Marketing folks should have known better, but they didn’t, and I’m not here to rag on them for it, I’m here to point out just how well outrageous content works. The outrageous differs from the taboo in that it’s not pulling moral strings, it’s all about creating a debate over opinions and dividing people among that debate. When division occurs, people literally fall over themselves to have their voice heard and to affirm their opinion… our brains just can’t help it!
Funny content is often the most viral (see: YouTube videos), but it is harder to incorporate into your typical small business content strategy. While comedians can get away with being hilarious + outrageous all the time, utilizing humor for business related content has to be done a certain way, or it will seem unprofessional or not genuine. One example I always love to showcase is Grasshopper’s “$!@# Entrepreneur’s Say” video, because it takes an industry relevant spin on a popular viral trend on YouTube:
“Dude, let’s go viral right now!”
Taking a jab at the tech entrepreneur community (their customer base), Grasshopper was able to generate 70k+ views and a broad, fun brand impression in front of the right audience.
This is likely the most difficult content to define, and yet it is often the most memorable and effective to create. Without making people angry, without being profane, remarkable content still manages to outshine the competition and live up to the source of its name: being worthy of remark.
As an example, let’s look at the fitness market. While weight loss stories are inspiring, they are a dime a dozen in a place as large as the web, and won’t get the kind of traction that allows them to “go viral”. However, the project Fit 2 Fat 2 Fit did. That’s because the founder put a spin on the tried-and-true fitness journey: being a fitness model already, he let himself get fat, only to lose the weight again in 6 months, to prove that it could be done. That’s thinking outside of the box! Other (more tame) forms of remarkable content come when brands take time to make something truly awesome in a crowded space, just like SEOmoz did with its Beginner’s Guide to SEO, a multi-page work that looks as beautifully as it reads. Now ranking on the homepage for simply “SEO”, I would say their remarkable project has made a huge splash!
This is my favorite sort of content, as it’s the type I practice most often on my blog.
Secret content reveals knowledge that only the “initiated” know about. The post you are reading now is secretive in its own way: it reveals information from a book and a Wharton research paper that not everyone has read. Other forms of secret content come to us in the form of this infographic on KISSmetrics, which looks to answer the question, “How do colors affect purchases?”, while citing research that gives the answer. Since we were just talking about the fitness niche, did you know that most diets fail because our brains are susceptible to “abandoning ship” as soon as their diet starts to falter? When you learn about that research you become initiated, free to share the “secret” with others. Secret content is more than just regular information like “How to set up a Facebook page”, it’s the kind of stuff that comes out of left field and totally blows the lid off of a topic people care about. You can only create secret content by reading good books and by breaking new information in your industry. A tough task to accomplish, but one with a ton of viral potential.
What did you think about these “buzzworthy” forms of content? Which ones can you apply to your content marketing efforts?