Can the most loyal fans of your brand actually become a barrier to expanding the reach of your content?
In this episode of the popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Perficient Digital’s Mark and Eric explain why you need to find ways to break through the fan barrier, and offer some tips on how to do it.
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Eric: Brands are producing more content than ever, but most of it isn’t going very far, right?
Mark: Sad but true, Eric. I mean, an awful lot of content, if it gets read or viewed at all is consumed only by people who are already hardcore fans of the brand. The people already loyal enough to have subscribed to the brand’s email list or follow it on social media.
Eric: So they might see the content but it goes no further?
Mark: Right, now I call that “the fan barrier”.
Eric: That sounds kind of counterintuitive. We might expect fans to actually help our content.
Mark: Yes and yet so much brand content never goes any further. I mean, it never gets to do one of its primary jobs to help spread the reputation of the brand and attract new fans and potential customers.
Eric: So why is that? Why does so much content die at what you call the fan barrier?
Mark: Usually because of one of two reasons. Either the content doesn’t do anything to inspire your fans to share it further. Or if they do, it has even less appeal to those who have no connection to your brand. Now Scott Stratten, author of the book, “UnMarketing“, pictures this as three circles. The first innermost circle consists of those hardcore fans.
Again, these are the people who actively seek out your content and who will probably read it no matter what.
The second circle contains the friends of your fans. These are the people with whom they might share or even recommend your content. There’s already a slight barrier here as these people might or might not be familiar with your brand. But they might look at the content if their friend recommends it strongly enough. But the real content killing barrier is reaching that third circle.
Eric: And who lives there, dragons and trolls?
Mark: No, the good news is that out there in the third circle are probably tons of people, who might become fans or even customers of your brand. But the barrier is that these are people who have no personal connection to the first circle, to your true fans. And so if the content even reaches them, it comes without any personal recommendation. It totally has to sell itself and it has to do so quickly.
Eric: How do we break the fan barrier then and expand the reach of our content?
Mark: On the organic side, you have to work extra hard to make sure your content has curb appeal.
Eric: What you mean by curb appeal?
Mark: Curb appeal is a real estate term.
And in real estate sales, people use that to mean a house that’s up for sale and it has curb appeal if it’s exterior appearance makes you want to stop and check it out from the curb. In a similar way, your content needs to be able to make people who don’t know who you are, stop and take notice. And want to click through to see what comes next, what’s inside.
And that means when it comes time to share out your content, you need to pay almost as much attention to how it is presented for sharing as you did the creation of the content itself.
Eric: Sort of like how a good publisher works hard at designing a cover that makes people want to take the book off of bookstore shelf.
Mark: That’s a great example. I mean, that means putting some thought into things such as the title, the description, images, videos you might have accompanying it, etc. All these have less than a second to grab the attention of a brand stranger. And then maybe a few seconds more to entice him or her to click through.
You have to think in terms of what’s attractive to and appropriate for your target audience. Now the temptation would be to go overboard and create click-bait headlines that try to deceive or over prompt.
Eric: “Eight amazing oil change hacks and the fourth one will stun you”.
Mark: Good one. I may use that one. I like that. But that approach may be right for a very few brands. But for most, you only end up leaving a bad taste about your brand for anyone who sees that or worse, clicks on it. Now instead, try to craft share text that will appeal to some real problem or need your target audience has, that your content will help solve.
Like for example, “Knowing these eight things will make your next oil change faster and cleaner”. Now if you can give some time to test out several different ways of sharing out the same content–and by the way paid social marketing is a great way to do that–then you’re gonna get really great results and find the right audience.
Now, for example, we published a study you did, Eric, that was titled, “Rating the Smarts of the Digital Personal Assistants”. The title seemed interesting enough, but by far the social share headline that brought the most clicks was “Google Home is smartest, but Cortana is catching up”. I think it’s because that title has a bit of drama. It tells a story.
I mean, the hare is ahead in the race as expected, but don’t count the tortoise out yet. Now, also as I mentioned earlier, it can be valuable to use paid social promotion to leapfrog over the fan barrier, get that well crafted, “Hey, click me,” pitch to that third circle audience and also get the opportunity to test out different titles, different images. See what works with that audience.
Eric: To sum it up then, you’re saying we shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back if our fans are reading and sharing our content. That’s the easy part. The hard part is breaking through the fan barrier to attract the people who could care less about us and make them care at least enough to give our content a shot.
Mark: Yes, but you might say I’m calling us to be content marketers, not just content producers.
Eric: Great Mark.
Mark Traphagen is Content Strategy Director for Perficient Digital (formerly Stone Temple Consulting). He has been named one of the most influential content and social media authors in numerous industry listings.