Friday, March 4, 2011

Why Your Audience Wants to Talk About Your Content

You can’t assume your audience wants your information only for themselves.  People seek information to share and trade, primarily in conversation as was discussed at the Inbound Marketing Conference last fall.  This primal hunt is especially vital to event curation.

Content that bears repeating is valuable to people.  Providing “remarkable content” is touted as a way to generate online social media conversation that potentially “goes viral” (dirty secret: it rarely happens without a big boost from mass media).  But if information is your product rather than a means to sell something else, you still should think about what your audience will want to share and trade with others.

Whether “useful or bizarre,” according to Pablo Boczkowski, a professor at the Northwestern University School of Communication, “what the mass public wants is something to talk about.”  Your humble blogger heard him at an MIT Comparative Media Studies Forum:  "Online News: Public Sphere or Echo Chamber?"

Similarly, Eric Ly, co-founder of Linkedin and the founder and CEO of Presdo credits NPR’s online success to their focus on news that “our friends will want to talk about.”  Eric spoke in a recent TSNN webinar promoting the MTO (MeetingTechOnline) Summit  – an event coming up in Chicago.

Trade information consumers are not that different.  Certainly business or professional consumers seek to improve their work performance directly with information.  However, they also seek information they can share and trade, in order to maintain and build their professional networks.

The promise of quickly providing a “talking knowledge” of a specialized field was the unique selling proposition of a trade event your humble blogger successfully promoted for many years, in the field of state and local government policy and purchasing.  A lot of information sharing and trading took place right at the event, because so many key people in the field attended, but the formal program gave attendees an authoritative overview designed to help them in their various professional circles outside the event.

Provocative and memorable talking points not only give recipients something to impart to others, they give recipients a common bond with others - a sense of “being in the know.”  That's one reason sports news is popular in the mass market..  But the bonding capacity also applies to specialized interests.  Your humble blogger in recent conversation started to quote the former Comptroller General of the United States, David Walker, (not exactly a household name) and was pleasantly surprised to have the quote completed and correctly attributed.   The connection of common interest was thus established.

Across all media and especially at face-to-face events, where the the social side is instantaneous, content developers should never assume that their audiences want entertainment strictly as a personal experience and utility only for direct application.  At least equally strong is the audience desire for content that can be used to strengthen ties to other people.  Feel free to mention this idea to a colleague!

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