Recently, I had lunch with my friend Jim Farley. Jim is the visionary behind America’s best All News radio station – WTOP. He has not only created an engaging media outlet, he continually expands his reach into digital, social and mobile platforms.

While we were talking about news and entertainment he told me the core values (inside joke) of what drives their content – and he used as the example St. Thomas Aquinas.

Now, the Summa Theologica and Aquinas’ definition of what drives passion is pretty heady stuff for a radio guy. It’s off the charts for those of us in social media.

Our goal as social media marketers and engagers is to find and develop content that people are passionate about. Starbucks is a winner in social media because people love their black ice tea (oh, wait, that’s me). Many B2B companies struggle with social media engagement because they cannot locate the passion point their brand offers.

As Graham Parker once sang – passion is no ordinary word. The levels of passion we experience are varied. We love ice cream in a slightly different way than we love our dog. Yet, we have enough passion for both that we will share our stories about the best ice cream or our stupid dog (wait, that’s me again) with all of our friends. Social media provides us with the opportunity to reach everyone and share our passions. Regardless of the depth or focus of passion, that level of emotional involvement makes people care, share and connect.


So, how do you find, develop and (buzzword alert) curate content that will feed into the passions of your followers? By knowing what emotions drive those passions. So, courtesy of St. Thomas Aquinas (via Jim Farley) here are the three pillars of passion:

HOPES: We all hope for a better life for our children. We hope the world will be a safer place. We hope our favorite team wins the championship. We hope traffic is better this afternoon. Hope is what drives us to endure the trying times. Without hope there is no reason to proceed because the future – by definition – must be bleak.

How does your product or service feed into the feeling of hope? Do you offer the opportunity for a better world or just an easier life? If you are a nonprofit this is the easiest emotion to work with because your mission is likely all about hope. For cures, clothing, food – your followers are with you because of the hope you provide.

Hope is a positive emotion. It leads to the possibility of positive change. Find content that shows your fans that there is hope, that things can be better, faster, slimmer – whateverer.

FEARS: We are all afraid of something. From the outbreak of war to spiders to failure, each of us harbors fears both great and small. As a social marketer – how do you harness this emotion?

The answer is in how you solve fears. The last thing you want to do is play to people’s fears. That may work in political campaigns but it is also exploitative. People may buy into what you are selling but will they become part of your fan base? Unlikely. We revere those that allay our fears but avoid those that are reminders of what we are afraid of. Plus, if you scare me into something – and you’re wrong – the torrent of negative feedback could be crippling.

DESIRES: This is probably the easiest emotion for creating content. We all want something – a new house, a new job, a really well made hamburger. Your product or service should fulfill the wants and desires of your followers. Make my dreams come true and I’m a friend for life.

There are other drivers of passion – like joy, sadness, needs – that can be mined for great interaction. And, I’m sure a theologian could take me to task for the oversimplified summary of St. Thomas Aquinas’ body of work. So be it. My point here is not to enumerate all the possible emotions you can use when creating compelling content.

Instead, you should be thinking about what motivates your fans, followers, donors and customers. What you do for them is what makes them care about you. Provide them with something that matters and then listen to their response. If you are truly engendering passion with your followers they will answer by commenting, posting, sharing and….buying (or donating).

Creating great content is as much an art as it is a science. Knowing what makes your followers tick leads you the the place of their passions. It helps you narrow your focus on the emotions of importance. It provides you with a frame of reference.

That said, you still need to roll up your sleeves and look inside your organization – every day – for stories, themes and ideas that will play to your fans’ hopes, fears and desires. Finding and delivering great content is difficult. Social media compounds the problem by demanding constant care and feeding.

You know your story better than anyone. The trick is turn that into something meaningful for me. Solve my problems or meet my needs and I will be a fan for life.

Your thoughts?