The Internet is becoming increasingly cluttered.

In 2005, we were reportedly exposed to over 3,500 brand messages per day. Nowadays, that figure is closer to 10,000 (if not already higher).

5.3 trillion display ads are shown online each year, 400 million Tweets sent daily, and 4.75 billion pieces of content shared on Facebook every day.

This relentless stream of content makes it harder than ever for your message to cut through the noise and get attention.

And while there’s no secret formula to creating content that gets shared, often, the content that people share isn’t random. By understanding some of the science behind successful content, you can increase your chances of success.

Here’s our guide to breaking through the noise.

pablo (4)

What is content overload?

There’s been an explosion of platforms entering the market — from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, to Vine, Medium, and Snapchat — with each platform providing businesses (and consumers) unique tools to create and engage with content.

Companies of all sizes are using these platforms to engage with, advise, sell to and service their customers. In fact, recent studies indicate that 94% of small businesses, 93% of B2Bs, and 77% of B2Cs all use content marketing.

That’s a lot of content! And with our limited attention spans, there’s only so much we can take in. This means that most of the content out there is rarely seen — driving little, if any, value for the businesses who create it.

Looking to stand out? Put the consumer first

As more and more businesses begin to think like publishers and produce content, consumers have become bombarded — often relying on algorithms (like Facebook’s Newsfeed) and curation services (like Nuzzel) to filter and show us what is believed to be most relevant to us.

In a World of content overload, 99% of content businesses produce goes unnoticed. It simply doesn’t stand out. It’s the middle.

If you want to stand out in a saturated space, you should focus on content that is genuinely adding value to your consumers’ lives.

By caring more about how you enhance the consumers’ lives, interests and enjoyment, you begin to build real, lasting connections between your business and the consumer.

Here are a couple of examples of companies who put consumer interests at the heart of thier content:

GoPro:

gopro

At Ad Age’s CMO Summit, Go Pro’s VP of marketing, Paul Candell explained:  “We’re not just a camera anymore. We’re an enjoyment platform for people around the world to watch.”

As a company, GoPro aims to inspire you to “Capture and share your world.” To achieve this, they produce aspirational, short-form video content that in turn inspires their customers to capture immersive footage of their adventures.

As a result, more than 6,000 GoPro-tagged videos are uploaded to YouTube every day.

Help Scout:

helpscout

Help Scout is another company who focus on consumer needs with their content.

As a customer service tool, Help Scout enables teams to efficiently collaborate and manage busy inboxes in order to deliver delightful customer experiences.

On their blog, they craft and share some incredible content for anyone who works in the customer support industry.

Their content is highly shared and respected in the customer service world and as a result, they have grown a mailing list of over 57,000 subscribers who opt in to receive their content twice a week.

The science of successful content

The best content marketing has the potential to far outperform the interruptive paid for advertising models.

Examples of interruptive advertising models include Facebook or Twitter ads popping up in our feeds — or in a more traditional sense, TV ads interrupting our favorite shows.

Content has the opportunity to appeal to our hearts and build a direct connection with consumers by giving us exactly what we’re looking for.

Whereas an advert may show a solution to a problem, great content can teach the consumer a solution.

I’d love to share with you three things we’ve discovered about the science of successful content and how you can use content to stand out from the crowd.

1. People love content that helps them learn

One study from the University of Pennsylvania found that helping someone learn something new increases chances for your content to spread.

Even more so than being interesting or surprising, creating content that your target audience finds practical will help it to stand out and spread further:
viral-content

2. People love to seem smart

In 2012, Linkedin sent out an email to some of its power users letting them know that they had “one of the top 5% most-viewed LinkedIn profiles.”

Here’s an example of the email sent to Michelle Wetlzer of Keen.io:

linked_email

This email led to an outburst of sharing by those who received it. Why did they share it? In short, because being a part of this exclusive group felt good (even though 20 million Linkedin members may have received this email).

Author and marketing professor Jonah Burger notes on his blog:

If a piece of content makes people seem smart, they’re more likely to share it with their friends. And people like being the first to share information because it makes them seem cool and in-the-know.

3. Consistency is key

Consistency is essential if you want to create content that grabs consumer attention and helps you to build an audience.

It’s probably best not to put all of your eggs in one basket and hope for one big a viral hit. Instead focusing on consistent content production can have a much better return for your business.

This piece of research shows that when it comes to blogging, traffic increasing significantly after you write 24-51 posts:

blog-growth

There’s no shortcut to consistency and as comedian, Louis CK says, results come from the work:

“I’ve learned from experience that if you work harder at it, and apply more energy and time to it, and more consistency, you get a better result. It comes from the work.”

3 ways you can create stand-out content

1. Do One Thing Well

A good strategy to stand out from the crowd is to focus on becoming known for something in particular.

It can be easy to think you need to be good at everything when it comes to content, however, less, is often more.

Doing one thing well means that audiences know what to expect from you when they return to your website, blog, Facebook page (or wherever you create content).

One of my favorite examples of a company doing one thing well is Blendtec. They have a series of videos called “Will it blend?” – where they stick all types of different things in a blender. Their content has amassed over 269 million views and earned more than 8000,000 subscribers on their YouTube channel. 

Here’s an example of one of their videos:

Blendtec has built up a substantial audience and created engaging, sharable content about their product by focusing on one thing in particular – answering the question “will it blend?”

This highlights that if you can find the inner remarkability in any product, you can create great content and get people to talk and share.

2. Create, measure, iterate

Data is an incredibly valuable part of any content marketing or social media strategy.

Before you create any content, try to think about who you’re targeting and what success will look like – maybe you’re after more page views, email subscribers or sales.

Whatever you’re aiming to achieve having a goal will allow you to measure and iterate over time. By consistently monitoring the performance of each piece of content you share, you can learn and respond fast to what works, and what doesn’t.

3. Follow attention

Attention is a necessary ingredient for effective marketing. And in the crowded online space, attention is a commodity with a rising price tag, as a Harvard Business School paper explains:

The market for consumer attention has become so competitive that attention can be regarded as a currency. The rising cost of this ingredient in the marketplace is causing marketers to waste money on costly attention sources or reduce their investment in promoting their brands.

As attention becomes more scarce on established platforms, marketers have to spend more to reach their target market.

Take Facebook, for example, a couple of years ago Facebook organic reach was extremely high – whereas nowadays, it’s likely to cost you if you want to reach more than a small % of your fans.

To stay on top of your game, you always need to be ready to shift, to go where people are spending their time. This approach could help you to find grab consumer attention at the smallest cost.

A growing platform like Snapchat could present enormous opportunities right now and may even be a better place to focus time than the most crowded platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Over to you

I hope you found this guide useful. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to create stand-out content below in the comments.

What are your favorite brands to follow on social media? Which company blogs do you read? I’d love to hear what content stands out to you.

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Written by Ash Read

Content crafter at Buffer. I’m fascinated by storytelling, entrepreneurship, and travel. When I’m not writing, you’ll usually find me on a football pitch or basketball court.

  • http://www.bigskywords.com/ Greg Strandberg

    Sorry, but is it combatting or combating?

    • Shay McLean

      Both. Although, ‘combatting’ is generally used more in British usage whereas ‘combating’ is generally used elsewhere. Hope that helps! 🙂

  • Alex Eckelberry

    Good article but OMG clean up the typos. “additional liklihood…”? Combatting? WTF!

  • http://www.schendera.com/ Harald Schendera

    In short: Fight content overload with more content, but trick yourself into beliefing that it is all fine as long as you “create, measure, iterate” and “follow attention”.

  • felicia.cristofaro

    Ash,

    This is some great insight. I think there is an underlying problem for most individual users in that we (myself included) don’t’ know what content we want to focus on. Our “consumers” are our friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and families. We are not trying to sell or advertise a product, but rather our own interests and passions. It makes it more difficult to share relatable content, particularly if you have a wide variety of hobbies (resulting in a wide variety of social media followers).

    Thankfully, there are tools like buffer to help schedule content to target different segments! Thanks for sharing!

  • http://hedstrominternetconsulting.com/ Steve Hedstrom

    Great post Ash! Personally, I love the Buffer blog content. Sharing with my network and have a wonderful Wednesday! 🙂

  • Cat Michaels

    Ash, I so needed to read your post this morning. Wondering how in the world to notch up my blog as a small blogger/solo authorpreneur, you provided much-appreciated direction -:D.

  • Alex Jangard

    First buffer blog read for me and I love it. Ash, I think additionally a platform like Snapchat offers a level of authenticity that others can’t match. For example, I make woodwork for people on Etsy, and my snapchat story consists of me making their orders – it’s raw and literally right in front of them, giving my customers value. Thanks for writing!

  • http://tanyajones.ca Tanya Jones

    Bang on Ash! It really would be lovely if more people would follow these cardinal rules because then we might actually find less of a problem of information overload! Unfortunately, the Internet has enable so many people to jump in and do things that they otherwise wouldn’t have likely done (like producing content).

    I’ve even found that in the advertising and marketing industry, the onset of the Internet and digital advertising has resulted in many marketers and business owners flat out forgetting the primary ingredients for successful advertising. It’s unfortunate how that shift has ended up reducing the quality of everything in order to combat the quantity of it all.

    You guys are setting an incredible example in that arena – you don’t flood your blogs with excessive amounts of posts and the content you do create has a value factor to it that makes them well worth looking forward to and it’s feasible to actually keep up with them. That’s how it should be!

  • http://www.socialbloom.com Tena Moore

    Thanks for this. It is SO much of what I teach my clients! I always say go with the three E’s: emotion, education and entertainment. If you can help them learn, make them smile and make them feel something positive, then you are doing it right! It’s ALL about creating (and being a curator of) interesting, educational, valuable and entertaining content. 🙂

  • http://www.MoneyNomad.com Rob @ MoneyNomad

    Great tips! Providing the right content, at the right time, to the right people, is certainly important. And I love the blendtec videos! Great read.