To put it very simply: Moby Dick nurtures an intensive relationship with the reader, The Wire nurtures an intensive relationship with the viewer, Buzzfeed nurtures a casual relationship with the reader, the Sunday comics page nurtures a casual relationship.
Somewhere in between you have, say, a movie like Fast & Furious 7, an action film that you can sit down and watch for a couple hours if you have the time, or, the next time you have five minutes to kill, you can check out the clips and animated GIF’s of the craziest moments.
Here’s the tricky thing: Buzzfeed makes it look easy, but the truth is it’s very difficult to generate nothing but viral content, and you probably won’t last without hardcore fans — aka customers who have an intensive relationship with your brand — but you won’t win over any power-users unless you are able to appeal to prospects in a more casual manner. Asking for full commitment right from the start, when the prospect’s attention is being distracted by so many other things, is a move that might net you a handful of fans, but usually not enough to even generate supplemental income.
Content that makes an impact needs to hit hard on both of these points. It needs to be shareable, it needs to grab the casual viewer’s attention immediately, but there has to be something there to reward the casual viewer who stops to take a closer look.
To put it one way: think of creating web content like producing a movie that has a great story, but also makes for a great trailer, full of imaginative, fun scenes that you put in the TV ads.
If you’re trying to develop advertising ideas for small businesses, here are some of the hallmarks of content that can go viral, and make a lasting impact:
- It makes its point quickly
Think of your web content as the short version of your broader message, like the radio single that lets listeners know what they can expect from the rest of the album. Remember that video where a woman walked around New York being catcalled by strangers, and even followed around by one particularly pushy Lothario? You don’t need to take four years of Women’s Studies to get the picture and think about taking action.
- There is an emotional hook, and intellectual content
The best content is for those who think and for those who feel. If all you want to do is create viral content, that’s easy: scrape the bottom of the barrel. Make videos and write articles that are dishonest in the name of being emotionally provocative. If you want to nurture intensive relationships with users, your content needs to take meaningful, important ideas, and put them into words that are emotionally provocative. Much trickier than just doing one or the other.
- Stay on message
Something that we often neglect in creating web content: repeating your message. Not to the point of monotony, but enough times that it will sink in. Your message might not get across in one big viral hit, but one drop at a time will fill the bucket.
Writer Bio: Gilbert S is a writer and artist from rural New Mexico.