Secrets of Engaging, Contagious and Shareable Content

March 13, 2015
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share online contentRegular publishing—producing content for a website, blog, social media and other digital platforms—creates an online presence. But your effectiveness quotient jumps into overdrive when readers share your material with others.

share online contentRegular publishing—producing content for a website, blog, social media and other digital platforms—creates an online presence. But your effectiveness quotient jumps into overdrive when readers share your material with others.

Not everything hits the gold standard of “going viral,” but experienced hospital and healthcare marketers appreciate the value of shared digital content. High quality and high value information is a tool to attract and retain new patients. Done well, it connects with individuals, engages their attention and holds their interest.

Understanding some of the key reasons that people share information is insightful for medical marketers and advertisers in creating engaging and sharable content.

Know your target audience. Virtually every aspect of marketing demands a clear and deep understanding of the people you want to reach. It’s not about you; it’s all about them.

Talk to one person. There may be thousands of readers, but the message is delivered one-to-one. Personalize whenever possible.

An enduring relationship is the overarching objective. The Internet is the means to communicate, but sharing information—from you to the audience and subsequently from the audience to others—is the fabric of an ongoing relationship.

Emotions fuel interest and action. When content is able to touch any spot of the range of human emotion, it will engage the reader’s attention and, quite likely, motivate sharing. Consider, for example, how uplifting hospital videos trigger an emotional response.

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Be surprising. When appropriate, provide something unexpected, maybe even a little quirky or shocking. An element that’s out-of-the-ordinary is far more interesting and sharable.

Purposeful storytelling works. The human brain seems to be wired in a way that quickly links to a well-told story. When it serves a useful purpose, it becomes “emotional transportation” for effective communications.

Focus for clarity. A singular idea, expressed in easily understood language, is far easier for the reader to grasp quickly and share easily.

The New York Times Consumer Insight Group produced a comprehensive study titled: Why do people share online? The Times research identified five primary motivations for sharing content online. You’ll want to read the full report, but in summary, motivations are:

  • To bring valuable, enlightening and entertaining content into the lives of people they care about;
  • To define themselves;
  • To grow and nourish their relationships;
  • Self-fulfillment; and
  • To get the word out about causes they believe in.

The report provides implications for marketers, including:

  • Appeal to customers’ motivations to connect with each other, not just with your brand.
  • Trust is essential.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Appeal to consumers’ sense of humor.
  • Embrace a sense of urgency.

To Share is Human…

The essential message from the Times consumer study is that sharing is human nature, and fundamentally about relationships: “When consumers encounter great content—useful, enlightening or simply entertaining—they feel an instinctive need to share it. So, while technology has enabled consumers to share more content with more people more often, the compulsion to share and the enjoyment of sharing are, on their own, important parts of consumers’ lives.”

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Lonnie Hirsch

Author information

Lonnie Hirsch
Director, Hospital Division at Healthcare Success Strategies
Lonnie has consulted for over 2,000 health care clients during his 20-year career, and co-founded Healthcare Success Strategies with Stewart Gandolf. He writes for many healthcare publications, and also has spoken at hundreds of venues nationally. Today, Lonnie leads our hospital division.

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