Social Media Marketing has two distinct attack points.
1) Creating content that will stick with bloggers and other social media users
2) Being able to leverage the social platforms you are building content for effectively
This is boiling a pretty substantial marketing endeavor into two pretty simple concepts, but it is important for the basis of this post. Attack point 2, creating a social media network, and understanding how to leverage individual platforms, takes a tremendous amount of time and study. However, attack point 1 can be achieved by following some common concepts.
Step 1 - Before you even begin creating your content boil the subject of your message down. What do you want to convey in your content? If the answer is something like "humor", you are rolling the dice, because that is subjective.
The Onion is great at this.
One of their most recent posts, Girl would be Terrified If She Knew Teacher Had Crush On Her Too, is a dark look at a teacher/student crush. This piece is focused around 1) all of our histories as young teens where we had some type of feelings for an authority figure 2) our deep concern about adults that prey on children. No matter what the rest of the article would have been about, those concepts would have stuck with the reader, and had an effect.
Step 2 - Create content for a specific channel. Different social media platforms respond differently to content. Digg, Reddit, Stumbleupon, and Youtube, can all be amazing seeding points for content, but all react to specific forms of content.
Example: w4m? m4w? ... L4D ...
Digg - 673 Diggs
Reddit - 69 up-votes; 42 down-votes - with a ton of negative comments
By understanding each platform, and creating content that will resonate with a specific channel you will increase the possibility of your content sticking.
Step 3 - An amazing hook. With some social platforms, such as Reddit, this is all you have. Even on Stumbleupon, people will gauge your content worthy of a glance based on the hook alone.
Todd Malicoat wrote a great post on The Link Baiting Playbook: Hooks Revisited.
Todd broke effective link baiting hooks into 5 categories
· News hook
· Contrary Hook
· Attack Hook
· Resource Hook
· Humour Hook
Link baiting does not necessarily equal viral, but it is synonymous with stickiness.
Step 4 - Clean design and appealing presentation. In his post, 9 Essential Elements of High-Quality Web Content , Brett Borders discusses some of the essential concepts of making your social media content more appealing.
· Beautiful Typography
· Professionally-formatted Photos and Illustrations
· Subheaders and Bulleted / Numbered Lists
These are key to the stickiness of your content because they make it easily read, understood, and then reused by other publishers and bloggers. If your content is a mess, people may read it, but your key message may be lost. Clients are often confused by the fact that we want to bring designers in on linkbait pieces, but their value is noticeable in the return on campaigns.
Step 5 - Masterful use of the content medium. If you are creating an article as linkbait, you should be having a top quality writer create that content. If you are using an illustration, you better be utilizing a top level artist. You can't fake quality.
Matt Inman, a great social media marketer, has the ability to leverage amazing illustrations. His work, such as The State of the Web , does well because he is able to utilize his own artistic skill to differentiate his content. Even amongst other image based content his work rises to the top.
Going back to The Onion, this is something they do well. They have an amazing story telling ability, the best in terms of satire on the web.
This doesn't mean that if you aren't an amazing content creator your ideas can't stick. But it does mean that you should look at bringing the right people on board for your projects.
There are other factors at play
It goes without saying that there are other factors at play with sticky content, such as timeliness and a bit of luck. However, if you stick to the concepts in your control you will greatly increase the effectiveness of your campaign. The rest is just part of the game.