Think about the waning hours of a family reunion, or that spot on a couch where you sit at a party where you are surrounded by people you only kind of know. It’s at that point in the night when all the generalities of small talk have been exhausted and now you are simply physically next to people. Then, as though through the grace of God, comes that pup. That drool ridden golden retriever or tail wagging yellow lab. The entire room becomes a buzz. People start petting the dog, talking to the dog, talking about the dog to the dog. Asking the dog, “Oh, is the music too loud for you boy?” or “Yeah, that was funny, huh?” And then eventually people start talking to one another about the dog. And then about their dog and then their childhood dog. And then they simply talk to one another.
The key to content is connection.
Now don’t get me wrong, everyone likes to pet a pup, and ask him, “Who’s a good boy?” But in this scenario, we never really wanted to talk to a dog. We wanted to talk to our extended family or get to know some new friends of friends. The dog simply provided the necessary avenue for those conversations. It warmed the waters if you will for comfortable interaction. And for a lot of digital content, that should be our goal.
Good shareable content is that dog that everyone wants to pet. “Good” is not so much a descriptor of the content as it is a descriptor of the connection it's able to generated between people.
People only talk about you, your brand, your content in as much as talking about you allows them to talk about themselves, or connect with another person. That’s buzz. That’s that little chuckle we do around friends when nothing is actually funny. It’s just something to connect the room.
And the thing about buzz is that you don’t always create it. Buzz is out there. People are always talking, wanting to talk. We just manage buzz – define what they are talking about.
As Emanuel Rosen says in The Anatomy of Buzz Revisited:
“Regardless of the motivations, all these stories illustrate one thing: Talking is not an incidental activity we engage in when we don’t have anything better to do. It is rooted in the basic needs we share with other living creatures. We need to talk and we don’t need much encouragement to do it.”
There are two things to keep in mind when creating good dog content.
1. Buzz needs an anchor.
This anchor needs to be something almost tangible that people can bob back and forth around. We can talk about that dog for days as long as it's there.
These anchors, however, are not talking points. Rather they are deep, poignant concepts that have a lot of hot surface area. Prescribed talking points are conversation killers. You say them, repeat them rather, and that’s that. These anchors should instead be shiny glimmers with strong hints of an idea that spark something in people that evokes their own talking points that are germane to their situation and relevant to those they are speaking to.
2. Don’t let your brand get in the way of the connections it has the potential to generate.
Now this might be blasphemy in certain circles, but content marketing is not marketing. It can achieve the same effects as marketing but only if it plays by a different set of rules. The main rule is drive conversation, don’t interrupt it. If your content is inherently a pitch under the guise of a goodwill story, it won’t have the bones necessary to hold a conversation when the time comes. The brand should be the impetus of conversation, not the topic of discussion.
Remember the good dog and aim at creating content that makes everyone delighted that it so happened into the room.