Lately, there has been a lot of buzz around content marketing. Much of it has been about how effective content marketing has been to many companies who employ it, but how can we achieve similar results? While it is easy to pump out content, what makes the cut to be considered sticky content? (Image credit: Flickr)
Before that, what is sticky content? Sticky content is content crafted such that it would hold the attention of its audience, and possibly be remembered by its audience for a prolonged period of time. The main purpose of sticky content is to get its audience coming back to its publisher’s site, as well as to attract a larger audience by allowing the piece of sticky content to be shared with others.
6 Principles of Sticky Content
According to Chip and Dan Heath, authors of “Made to Stick”, there are 6 principles that may be applied to create sticky content. These principles are referred to as hooks in the book, because it can be used to “hook” your audience’s attention.
#1 – Simple
In their book Chip and Dan Heath recommend keeping your message
“succinct enough to be sticky, meaningful enough to make a difference.”
Face it: your audience won’t remember something you want them to remember unless you first make it easy for them to do so.
Consider these two lines.
1. The record-breaking free-fall where a man jumped from the edge of space and landed on Earth.
2. The Red Bull Stratos
Which is easier to remember? In fact, which will naturally be remembered? I think you know the answer.
- Decide upon the message in the content (article, video, picture, etc.), and give it a simple headline that says it all.
- Keep at least the headline short and snappy.
#2 – Unexpectedness
An element of profundity would give the piece of content more stickiness. It is a little like having a first-mover advantage in content marketing, just that the first-mover here controls the audience’s perception of the matter through a profound piece of content.
For example, the new hydroelectric dam being constructed in Malaysia, the Bakun dam, is said to be a very big project. But a statement like that has no profundity, does it? How about this:
“The Bakun dam in Malaysia would be the tallest dam of its class in the world, and its storage lake has a surface area the size of the entire Singapore Island.”
Now that’s better, isn’t it?
- Give a fresh perspective of the matters featured in the piece of content you create.
- Use analogies, metaphors, and similes to relate the featured matter with things your audience can relate to.
#3 – Concrete
If there is a message to be conveyed in the piece of content, it should be clear and concrete, without any significant ambiguity.
For example, if a candidate for president says he’s serious about solving a prevailing problem, there is room for doubt. But if he says he will step down if the problem is not solved in a year, we know that be very concretely clearly that he is dead serious about solving the problem.
- Take a step back and look at the message before publishing the content. Get someone else to look at it, too. If there is room for doubt, revise.
#4 – Credible
If a piece of content has unusual credibility, it would be remembered better.
For example, if a construction company that held the contract to build the Burj Khalifa (the tallest skyscraper in the world, located in Dubai) releases an article saying that the land your house happens to be on is actually unsuitable for apartment buildings to be built on it, you might really want to give it a deep consideration.
- There are a few ways to establish credibility in your content.
- Get an expert in the matter to endorse the information presented.
- Provide concrete details about the matter.
- Provide statistics, citing the organisation or study where you took it from whenever possible.
#5 – Emotional
Josef Stalin said, “one death is a tragedy, a thousand deaths is a statistic.” And Mother Theresa agreed to this idea when she said, “If I look at the mass I will never act, if I look at one I will.” Because scrutinizing one case will convey the fullness of emotions that surround the case, and leave the long-lasting impression you want to leave on your audience.
Martin Luther King Jr. did not say ‘I have a plan’ in his famous speech, but he said ‘I have a dream.’ This is because the word ‘plan’ would have connote that it is his plan, but the word ‘dream’ is something his audience could relate with, as they can share the dream but not the plan.
- Use inclusive words like ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ so the audience will feel that the issue is of their concern as well.
- Ask rhetoric questions about matter they feel about, like ‘Won’t you love to be slim and attractive?’
- Using emotional appeal can make sticky content as it leaves an indelible impression on the audience.
#6 – Stories
In creating sticky content, it would be powerful to include an anecdote to convey a message, because it can do two things. Firstly, stories can give a rough idea of what they can do about the matter, allowing you to influence their next course of action. Secondly, stories can inspire that desired response, through painting a picture of the results.
In the book ‘The Parable of the Pipeline’, Burke Hedges used a parable of two men to illustrate the benefits of going into business. Such a method allows him to convince his readers beyond rationality, but emotionally as well, because they experienced the emotions he puts into the story.
- If there is something you’ll like your audience to do after taking a look at your content, write a story to paint pictures in their mind.
- The story should be one your audience can relate to, so the characters in the story should be similar to that of your audience’s profile.
Are you using sticky content in your blog or in other forms of content? What are your biggest challenges with producing sticky content? Let us know in the comments below.