I’ve become notorious for a few sayings around the office that I repeat ad nauseam.  One of these “Nicole-isms” addresses the question, “How can I get more engagement/get more eyes on my _______ (insert social content here)?”  I’ve developed a set of criteria for social attraction to web content, that I think holds a bit of water.  However, I’d love to hear if anyone out there in web-land takes a different perspective or approach.  When asked by clients or colleagues how to make their social content pop, I answer as follows:

There are three ways.  Choose one.  Be funny.  Be emotional. Or Be Extremely Helpful/Informational.

Funny is defined as anything humorous, goofy, random, “meme-ish,” or topically hilarious.

Emotional, as used here, is defined as anything cute, passionate, emotion-inspiring, beautiful, etc.  Basically, anything that makes you feel SOMETHING.

Helpful/Information is defined as a selfless contribution to growth, whether intellectual or otherwise.  So guides, how-tos, and data would fall into this category, among other things.

I’ve been saying this for a few years and as I watch viral video after popular article after great infographic wax and wane on the web, I see it proven time and time again.  The exceptions, of course, are celebrity content, but these rules assume you and your brand are not celebrities (and that everyone in the room is a realist with regards to celebrity-status).  Here’s a few topical examples:

  • Dan Pearce of Single Dad Laughing writes “I’m Christian, unless you’re gay.”  – This post has MASSIVE reach, with 427,000 Facebook likes alone.  It’s been used in classrooms and speeches.  Of course, this falls into the emotional bucket.  Whether you feel sympathetic, offended, or generally opposed, it inspires feeling.
  •  Charlie bit my finger – This ridiculously popular video at 452 million views and counting comes at the social rules hard by nabbing up the “Funny” contribution AND the emotional (cute kids automatically get bonus points in the emotional bucket).
  • This Mashable post, “5 Tips for Great Content Curation,” received more Tweets, Likes, Comments, and Shares than other Mashable posts by almost 250%!  While Mashable does have some “celebrity status” and they are a news site, what made this content so much more sticky than other content they push out?  Well, it is EXTREMELY helpful and useful information!
  • Yoplait has a super-popular brand Facebook page with 955,000+ Likes.  What makes their page so awesome?  They combine humor, emotion, and helpfulness in their posts!  They dominate the helpful/useful category with updates like, “Crunchy, sweet goodness! Check out our latest SWAP recipe: Peach Granola Bars” linking to a detailed recipe with enticing pictures.  They knock emotion out of the park by posting delicious-looking pictures of fresh fruits and yummy desserts.  They intersperse humor with random jokes and light banter.  It all contributes to a stickier page!
There’s no secret here.  There’s no magic bullet.  It’s just a summary of what most people know in their heart of hearts.  How do I become popular?  The answer is always the same whether you’re talking about social content or even real life.  No one wants to stand next to that guy at the party who just talks about himself the whole time.  You gotta give back… you have to contribute!  Be funny, be emotional, or be helpful… or better yet, be all three.