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Pinpointing What Your Audience Wants Affects What Gets Shared


When someone makes an association with the content your create it has a better opportunity to be acted upon.

This article is about creating what your audience wants not a dogged pursuit to persuade someone to react.


The Evidence

A recent study from the Journal of Consumer Research (JCR) highlights how we acquire content affects how we share.

The JCR publishes ongoing research (since 1974) and focuses on explaining consumer behaviour.

It’s 2016 study, How Content Acquisition Method Affects Word of Mouth (if you want to have a read of the full report click here) was collated through a series of experiments.

Some key points for you from the study:

  • when people find content (not sent to by someone else) they associate the content with themselves
  • the feeling of finding something helps make a personal connection and a deeper association
  • people who feel like they found content will associate that content more with themselves
  • people use how interesting content is to determine whether to share the content (or not)
  • ANY content can become self-associated by finding it rather than receiving it
  • When someone has a high self esteem they are less likely to process the whole content piece thoroughly
  • People are more critical about the quality of an article if it comes to them from an outside source, rather than if they find it themselves

If you can consistently create content that delivers information that is focused on the pain points of an audience, you can acquire attention and encourage further reach.


No Such Thing As Neutral Content

This picks up on an interesting discussion from a recent This Old Marketing podcast episode (listen to show 133 below), that discusses there is no such thing as a neutral experience.

Backed up by the study, you either have a positive or negative experience, there is nowhere in between. Robert Rose highlighted that the focus has to be on quality, not the amount of content you create. If you focus on a role to educate and provide value, you can build trust. As the study suggests, if someone sources your content directly, then they have the ability to associate the content with themselves, there is nowhere in between.

This is exactly what brands such as GoPro do by connecting with their audience, who then have a deeper sense of sharing.

Contently describe GoPro not as a ‘hardware company, but a content companty,’ they wholeheartedly invest in their users.

This idea of acquiring content that then has a personal connection, that is then shared is something that happened this week.


Bringing In The Day To Day Evidence


Ernest Capbert takes to the stage (and those who came to Once Upon A Time last month, you’ll know full well who Ernest Capbert is).

Ernest is co-founder impresario of customer research company, Who Buys Your Stuff. Ernest shared with me (via email) a video from GoPro called When We Were Knights. A 12-minute barrage of emotion of Ian Flanders and his long time climbing partner, Matt Blank with footage recorded from their Go-Pro. This is such a touching form of storytelling, I won’t give it away, give it a watch.

When We Were Knights from GoPro on Vimeo.

I asked Ernest what the film meant to him.

Ernest replied, “The time thing just thumps me in the gut. i think a lot of us travel through life in first gear. I was in first gear for so long, I’m probably in second gear now and there’s another four gears to go – but we have to get on with it – life is precious and short.”

“When we realise in our own ways, that we’re just a bunch of monkeys on a rock orbiting a sun and that the short lives we live really are so inconsequential in the grand scheme of things – I think we relax, we realise it’s just one big ride and we might as well go for broke doing what we want to do.”

“I think it’s possible for a lot more of us to do what we want to do, but in order to do that, you’ve got to double down, really look deep within yourself, ask some big, gnarly questions. Once you find the real answers, we start grinding through the gears and live incredible lives, spending more time doing exactly what we want to do and less time doing things we don’t.”

“That’s what the film meant to me.”

Brands that connect help people associate with themselves.

This is why Doves Campaign For Real Beauty has been recognised by AdAge as the best ad campaign of the 21st Century (note: this is an ad not an example of content marketing by the way).

Another reason that suggests that content strikes a chord with people when they associate the content with themselves.


What Are The Lessons For You?

Whilst you will probably never have the budget that the likes of GoPro or Dove have, there is a common ground that ties what you believe in to what the big players can achieve.

You want your audience to feel connected to what you create. It has to be believable. It has to have a purpose. It has to champion something that not everyone else in your industry has grabbed hold of….yet (find your one word, click here).

When focusing on making an impact rather than popularity, someone else can make an association based on their experiences, values and beliefs.

The JCR study validates that we all seek to find significance and meaning in what is in front of us. If that message presented is merely product-based information with no acknowledgement of an emotional connection, just a transactional cue, then no wonder we are in a world of saturation.

There are still businesses that mean absolutely nothing to anyone, but still bombard the channels that are available with wild abandon. Have this one, there were 205 billion emails sent each day in 2015 (there are over 7 billion people on the planet), according to The Radicati Group.

To find more meaningful ways to connect comes down to having clarity in a strategic approach. I like how Faris Yakob describes this in Paid Attention by stating, ‘businesses exist solely to create value, to make money. Therefore, business strategy is simply how you intend to go about that, using whatever assets you have available.”

Some key pointers to be taken from the JCR study and people associating themselves with the content they discover. You need to:

  • Think like your audience (you are not your target audience)
  • Encourage someone else to interpret and take ownership (read this article for what happened after Once Upon A Time and what Kherrin Wade did)
  • Make others feel smarter
  • Be consistent with what you believe in
  • Become better at one thing
  • Build an audience around those who want to consume what you create

When you create with someone else in mind, it can cause a reaction.

If someone associates with what you create, you have the ability to step above the noise to becoming more meaningful.


Lets Round Up

You can build an audience that can be targeted with the values that you stand by. If they consume directly, rather than passed on by someone else, the content becomes an extension of themselves and links to their belief system. The JCR study, provides proof that you have a real opportunity with an approach built on consistency and a cause to encourage personal attachment.

I hope this article helped you make some form of association. That would be the right call for this piece.

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