Why Content Goes Unshared, Unnoticed & Unloved

Where brands go wrong when trying to create content consumers will love and share.

By Hannah Smith

Content Marketing

Creating content is a massive undertaking. When you create content, you're competing not only with commercial competitors who are also creating content, but also with publishers whose sole focus is creating content. Then there’s the content individuals create. Consumers are constantly being bombarded with content – news, music, TV, film, video, social updates from friends and family. Sharing content isn’t actually the core focus for most people – they have jobs, families, responsibilities – and there aren’t enough hours in the day as it is.

Creating content that people will care about, people will share with their friends, and will attract links from other websites is harder than it looks.

Many brands and businesses fail to grasp how tough it is to stand out, but even those that do recognize the difficulty still struggle to succeed. Where are they going wrong? Why are they struggling?

What follows is by no means an exhaustive list, but these three of the most common reasons why content goes unnoticed, unshared, and unloved.

Creating Content That Only Directly Relates To Products Or Services Offered

Just because you sell soft drinks doesn’t mean that the sole focus of your content needs to be soft drinks. Your content doesn’t have to be just about what you sell.

Brands and businesses that are serious about creating content need to take a step back from their products and services and instead think more about what content their target audiences consume. How can you create things that your audience will care about?

Your brand is not what you sell. It’s how you sell it.

The most obvious example of this is Red Bull. They sell soft drinks, but their content is about extreme sports, music, and gaming. Why? Because that’s the sort of content that resonates with their target audience.

Yes, Red Bull is a big budget example. Many brands and businesses don’t have enough cash to create and run their own media house, sponsor a huge number of teams and events, or send a guy into space.

Nevertheless, even those with modest budgets can still execute a similar strategy. Concert Hotels are a hotel affiliate set up specifically to cater to those seeking a hotel near concert venues. Rather than creating content about travel or hotels, they instead focus on creating content about music – because that’s what their audience is passionate about.

The piece above received 2.1 million pageviews, was shared more than 105,000 times on Facebook, attracted coverage from more than 1,000 sites including The Huffington Post, Time, and NBC, and the man himself, Axl Rose commented.

Focusing On Formats Rather Than Ideas

All too often, I hear pearls of “wisdom” like: “infographics get links.”

For every infographic that’s attracted links from 1,000+ sites, I could show you 1,000 that have attracted no links at all.

The same holds true for every other format – videos, quizzes, competitions, long-form articles, short-form articles, listicles, guides, slide decks, and interactive pieces. People don’t link to infographics because they are infographics, they link to them only if they are valuable in some way. That value might be humor, insightful information, something of educational value, or something which resonated with them emotionally, for example.

In short: People don’t share formats. They share ideas.

An infographic isn’t an idea, it’s a format. Similarly, videos, quizzes, competitions, long-form articles, short-form articles, listicles, guides, slide decks, and interactive pieces are not ideas. They are formats.

Focus on coming up with a really good idea (more on this here), the format can come later.

Failing To Consider Whether People Will ‘Look Good’ Sharing The Content

Most of us don’t think too deeply about why we share things on social media, but The New York Times did a study on the psychology of sharing. It found that 68 percent of people share things to give others a better sense of who they are and what they care about.

Knowingly or otherwise, when people share things via social media, they do so to shape other people’s impressions of them. As such, if you’re creating content that’s designed to be shared, you need to think about whether someone would “look good” sharing the content.

For example, while an interactive guide on curing fungal nail infection might well be useful, no one is going to look good sharing that. If they do share it, they’ll just be telling the world that they have nasty looking toenails, and most people (quite understandably) prefer to keep that sort of thing to themselves.

Why else do you think content fails to gain attention?

Hannah Smith

Content Strategist , Distilled

Hannah spent 7 years working in offline marketing (they just called it 'marketing' back then) until her fairy godmother told her that the internet was the future. Not one to ignore such sage advice Hannah made the switch to online. By day she’s a Content Strategist at Distilled, and by night she dreams of owning a book shop. She’s spoken at various conferences, including MozCon, SMX, SearchLove, Brighton SEO and The Content Marketing Show. She also writes on Moz, Distilled, State of Digital & SEO Chicks.

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