It is a sad fact that fake news travels much faster on Twitter than the truth. We should blame the way our amygdala works, says Julia Ruane, head of PR and content at social media risk experts Crisp Thinking: “This little part of our brain is what is what fuels our instantaneous reactions to what we’ve seen, heard or read. It’s also known as the ‘fear centre’ which is great for keeping us alive, but not so good at distinguishing between what’s real and fake. Considering most fake news elicits a response of shock, disgust or fear, there’s no surprise that that is the news that gets our attention and engagement. Even if what follows later is more well-balanced and thought out, that initial reaction can stay with us.
“On social media this is particular issue, as short posts don’t leave much room for the ‘common-sense’ information to follow. As a result you see well-intentioned marketing campaigns, such as BrewDog’s ‘Beer for girls’ elicit major backlash on Twitter. People saw, amygdalae were engaged and responses were written. We see this all the time when moderating posts on social media. I sometimes wonder if more people took a moment, just a moment, there wouldn’t be so much hate speech, abuse and profanity shared online, but then, if they did, there’d be less of a need for a company like ours! As for learning how to make real news as shareable as fake news, it seems it’s back to the shocking story of man bites dog. But then, that’s just old news isn’t it?”
There are ways that you can make real news travel quicker and further without having to resort to exaggeration and lies. We asked experts in the art of creating shareable content for their top tips.
From Nastasia Feniou, digital account director at comms agency TVC Group:
- First listen. “How else will you know what matters to your audience? The reason why you create social content is because you know your audience is likely to engage on those channels. Spend time there! Use social tools and human hours to learn more from your audience.
“Start with extracting key insights from social conversations that can be applied to your overall strategy. Tracking conversations around specific keywords, hashtags, topics or industries will help you identify emerging trends. Joining and following relevant group discussions on LinkedIn or Facebook is an excellent way to gain customer insights.
“It may be difficult to follow every single person from your target audience but you can identify group leaders and influencers they relate to. Follow them and engage with them regularly.”
- Be relevant. “The more you know about your audience the more relevant your content will be. Understand what data is important for your campaign and set the right tracking in place. A/B testing for example will help you create relevant messages using the type of language your audience is the most familiar with.
“In the same way you probably wouldn’t eat breakfast after 2pm, your audience is unlikely to consume your content every day, all day. Look at which days of the week they are the most active online and what time of the day they seem the most likely to engage with you. They may have a shorter attention span in the morning than in the evening after work hours. This valuable data should help inform the format and length of assets you create.”
- Go live! “Make live videos, live Q&As on Twitter, and Instagram stories an integral part of your content plan. To combat the contamination of fake news, we have seen an increase in demand from our clients for secured brand platforms such as Media Centres and Brand Content Hubs or apps. They are powered by a company’s employees and guarantee authentic brand content.”
From Lisa Kingsnorth, director at news service Ace Media:
- Arouse strong emotions. “Studies have proven that content arousing strong emotion in the reader, whether positive or negative, is far more likely to be shared than ‘vanilla’ content. This, combined with the function your content serves, will contribute greatly towards the impact on shares. Concentrate on opinion forming, informative, entertaining and inspirational content, and wherever possible, link it with current topics.”
- Optimise for social. “Whilst it may seem obvious, there’s also a technical element to shareable content. It’s important to ensure that the content is optimised for social use. Incorporating social share buttons that are clearly visible to the reader will immediately increase shareability. Aesthetics also have a big role to play, so ensure that the content incorporates an eye-catching visual, strong headline and punchy description – you can also optimise this ‘meta-data’ according to the social channels upon which you’d like to see the content shared.”
From Tom Davis, account manager at communications agency Common Industry:
- Keep it simple. “Versatility and simplicity are both key to creating interesting, shareable content. If a story’s main hook can be told through video, images, research and comment, then it becomes simple to convey the message, which is key in driving shares. If you can deliver a succinct headline, it gives you more opportunity and time to tell an interesting story.”
- Think of the journalist. “It’s also important to bear journalists in mind when creating a campaign, as well as the potential audience. Interesting (and important) content appeals to journalists with integrity, who are more likely to put effort and emotion into crafting a story which a title’s audience are likely to share. Earlier this month we launched our #MakeMoneyEqual campaign for Starling Bank, which conveyed the story through different types of content, but also presented a compelling case to the journalist, who wrote an impassioned piece that’s been shared over a thousand times. By creating a purpose-driven campaign and carefully targeting journalists whose work aligns with the campaign’s message, you’re more likely to secure compelling coverage that drives shares.”
From Alex Singleton, communications and marketing lead at healthcare provider Circle Health:
- Carefully target audiences. “PR people need to think more like marketers and apply the rigour of segmentation, targeting and positioning to their outreach on social media. Instead of trying to broadcast a generic message to everyone, it’s important to segment audiences, put some money behind targeting the right people and make sure the positioning of the message is genuinely interesting to those being targeted. Too often, PR teams have bought into the myth that ‘social media is free’ and imagine that the public has a pent-up desire to have 'two-way symmetrical engagement' with a company's self-interested content. This ill-conceived approach normally lacks cut-through and, let’s face it, the vast majority of attempts to go viral organically fail.”
- Test, test, test. “PR people who succeed at social media are better at understanding and explaining that, for businesses, social media is a paid-for advertising medium these days. And just as direct marketers have relentlessly split tested their messages, PR practitioners doing social media would benefit from testing different variants of messages in the pursuit of real knowledge. Sure, creativity is a vital part of social media success – but so is testing.”
From Max Tatton-Brown, founder of communications agency Augur:
- Entice your audience to do something. “One of the most crucial elements people forget is to leave the circle incomplete to prompt your audience to engage with it. This is is based on something called the Zeigarnik Effect, whereby incomplete tasks will niggle away at an individual more than ones that don’t require an action. I even once wrote about how press releases might trigger this by packaging interesting news in the worst possible wrapper and provoking journalists’ desire to do a better job.”
So bearing in mind that last piece of advice (but not the bit about deliberately writing in a bad way to provoke a reaction!), we suggest that reading this article is just the start… make sure you share it now!
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