Finding the “secret sauce” for social media popularity is this century’s Holy Grail. Everyone wants it, few find it. But perhaps we’re looking at it the wrong way. Instead of looking for some cookie cutter formula we can mass replicate, maybe we should be looking at the psychology of what people actually do online. What really gets shared online, and why?
Why Do We Use the Internet?
Using the Internet is a far different experience than it was in 1993. Back then, the Internet was vastly a place to get limited information. Now, you can do just about anything online, it’s like Vegas for media junkies. What happens here, stays here… forever.
There are basically two main reasons for going online: information and entertainment. You might pull up a webpage to find the store hours of your local home improvement store, or get a phone number for the nearest pharmacy. You may be researching the latest diet craze or that new medication your doctor prescribed.
The Internet helps you solve problems:
- I need a good pair of running shoes.
- How do I get my puppy to stop barking?
- My computer is making a whirring noise.
- Who’s running for president in 2016?
- When is the next Game of Thrones episode airing?
These are problems that require information-based solutions. The Internet is a limitless resource for quickly garnering basic information about a problem. The best solutions to the biggest problems get shared the most online.
But the Internet isn’t just a tool for solving problems.
Enter the cats. Nearly every nook and cranny of the Internet is filled with cats, dogs, babies, people doing stupid yet funny stuff (-but mostly cats. Why? They got there first and claimed the best spots. It’s what cats do.).
And this (arguably) meaningless stuff gets shared like crazy. LOL CatZ do not solve any problems. They don’t tell you how to fix a stuck microwave carousel or why your right ribcage hurts after you eat a cheeseburger and milkshake from McDonald’s after the age of 40. But they do entertain us- and that’s where the magic happens.
You see, we’re media addicts. We carry around smart phones and tablets that are connected 24/7. We check our screens in the middle of the night and while we use the bathroom. We can’t eat a meal without a screen of some type glowing in our faces. The entertainment stream coming from our devices soothes our frazzled emotions and feeds our busy minds. The more we get, they more we want. So when something catches our attention, we share it with others, because we know they too are looking for a good entertainment fix.
Meeting the Need
Which of these two needs does your social media meet? Do you provide stellar information or star-quality entertainment? What gets shared online informs or entertains, or in the rare case, does both. And it does it well. If you want your media to be shared, you don’t need a secret formula, you just need to feed the beast.
Creating Shareable Media
Creating popular media isn’t rocket science.
Let’s face it, the strangest things tickle our fancies.
We like cute and funny things that distract us from our lives.
We have similar struggles and fears.
We have the same needs.
But not all great media goes viral. Why?
It doesn’t get seen by enough people and it’s “shareable hot streak” cools off when the next BIG THING comes along and replaces it. Its moment in the sun isn’t enough to microwave a leftover burrito.
Getting Seen Online
A few really phenomenal things go viral organically, like Charlie and his choppers:
But if you can’t get your kids to do something spontaneously adorable, and then find some way to monetize it, you’re going to need to promote your media.
Promoting your media is a lot like coordinating a well-planned military maneuver. You need to strike the masses with your information or entertainment and generate enough heat to not only nuke that burrito, but burn it to a nice golden brown. If you gain enough momentum, your media will snowball into a shareable tidbit that generates lots and lots of buzz and traffic, which translates into revenue for you if you’ve set up your website properly in advance.
So what are you sharing today? What’s caught your eye and prompted you to give it that highly coveted click?