Do you find people yawn when you talk? Do they nod and smile while their eyelids droop? No? That’s funny; they do when they read your content. They scroll through images of ultra-posed, smiling models or read a list of five tips that sound vaguely like another list they’ve read before and their heads get heavy. Their brain feels compelled by the sheer banality of it all to just shut down and have a rest. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
The reason your readers are falling asleep, the reason my readers are falling asleep, is because we’re too careful. Social media content has opened a whole new world to marketers and we’re stepping tentatively into it, one careful toe at a time. We talk about engaging readers, about getting people talking and exciting readers. Then we post content wishing fans a happy Friday.
We post content with the express intention of not upsetting anyone. We advise brands to create content that will rival media outlets for quality and then we refuse to criticize or comment. We just pour words onto a page. That would’ve been okay in the days when keyword stuffing worked; at least that was an excuse to put out dull, lifeless content. We tell people to be exciting, but we don’t tell them what’s boring. We talk about engaging content, we even give tips on how to write it, but we rarely say that something is bad or state a strong opinion.
There’s not enough controversy in social media content. There are too few people really willing to throw an opinion out there. Listing your favorite websites, or giving tips on how to shop online is barely opinion. It’s not opinion that someone’s going to disagree with, and isn’t that what conversation is all about? An exchange of ideas.
Where’s the value in this conversation?
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Marketer: ‘I think you should tie your shoelaces this way.’
Reader: ‘I’m not sure, I do it this way.’
Marketer: ‘That way is good too. There are many ways to tie them, thanks for your interest.’
The marketer might have pleased the reader, but will that make them stand out from the crowd? What incentive does that reader have to come back to that marketer? What if the marketer had told the reader he/she was an idiot? It would have upset the reader, and probably a few others, but some would no doubt agree with the marketer. Polar opinions drive conversation. They get people talking.
I’m not suggesting that you should insult readers or post social media content that people find insulting. I’m saying you should create content people feel compelled to respond to. Don’t be afraid to post social media content that creates more than one opinion. If there are two sides in argument, the people on your side will become more loyal to you.
Controversial social media content has so much more impact than the standard fare. A nice image of a cuddly bunny gets a few shares and a smile, but then it’s gone. A challenging opinion is likely to get comments. Those comments contain more opinion and that generates…? You guessed it, more comments and more opinion. Social media is an opportunity for brands because you can get people talking. Why should we waste that opportunity in order to be nice?
What Are You Afraid of?
Many marketers will avoid controversy, because they fear negative press. There used to be an idea in marketing that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. That’s been pretty strongly disproved by brands posting about politics and religion. But that’s not what I’m talking about. Provide some opinion on your industry. Something people might disagree with, like pointing out how boring most social media content is.
I understand. You have a ‘message’ to protect. You don’t want your brand to stand out for the wrong reasons. But what are the wrong reasons? Is stating an opinion really a bad thing? If you think an industry trend is bad, or feel strongly about an issue, you should share it. You might find that others agree with you, and those people will be your most loyal supporters and promoters. And remember, when someone shares your content on social media they’re endorsing it. They may not agree, but they’re encouraging the people who trust them to engage with you. That’s what social media content is for.
I say we should all try to be stronger in our opinions. We should be brave enough to create a bit of controversy. We shouldn’t fear an opposing opinion; we should embrace it. Maybe you disagree with me, maybe you think I’m way off. If you do, let me know. We can talk about it.
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