The world sure has changed since 1995 when I founded my
digital marketing agency. Hashtags back then were pound signs, dial-up Internet tied up our land
lines and Web 2.0 hadn’t yet shown its full potential. We have evolved
with the times, adopting tactics that once seemed ludicrous or impossible,
before the renaissance of shareable content began in earnest.
The 7 Secrets to Shareable Content
Today, your marketing doesn’t stand a chance unless your strategy embraces
a singular fact: Traditional, sales-heavy ads will often be far less
engaging than quality, shareable content distributed for free. Need proof? According to the
Content Marketing Institute, 200 million people use ad blockers; and, content marketing not only costs
62 percent less than outbound marketing, it yields three times as many
This is one of the lessons that led me to find examples of this
practice—which yields powerful results. Two obvious companies in this space are Patagonia and Dollar Shave Club.
Patagonia, the outdoor apparel giant, puts what I’m sure amounts to thousands of
dollars of time and work into its catalog, and the result is far more than
a simple sales brochure. The Patagonia catalog features in-depth,
magazine-quality stories from people who actually use these products. The
publication puts its customers—not the company—in the spotlight and
simultaneously conveys the spirit of the brand.
Add some high-quality photography and the catalog is a publication that
people would pay for (but don’t have to). Even better, the content itself
is largely contributed by the audience it targets.
Dollar Shave Club,
the company for rebellious facial hair aficionados, has become known for
its quirky online ads. However, it’s the Club’s
“Bathroom Minutes” tips series that I find most engaging in terms of shareable content being
given away for free. Though not written by Dollar Shave’s customers, this
series still speaks directly to its audience.
From “The Plumber’s Guide to Not Clogging Your Sink When Shaving,” to “5
Non-BS Health and Grooming Life Hacks,” this is content that could easily
be featured on Men’s Health; yet, Dollar Shave Club is giving it
away without a subscription fee. Why? Because it is valuable for the
audience and will result in clicks, attention and (hopefully) brand
awareness that will lead more people to that “buy” button.
What giving something away for free gets you
What can other businesses gain from giving away quality content for free?
If my company’s (Findsome & Winmore’s) success is any indicator, quite
a lot. Three benefits immediately come to mind:
The more you do outside of the confines of your product or service, the
more the media’s ears perk up. Except, perhaps, for an exciting new menu
item at your restaurant, or the announcement of your real estate firm’s big
new project, your public relations people will have much more to run with
if your brand positions itself as a thought leader in its field.
In our case, that meant my book, Formulaic: How Thriving Companies Market from the Core, and the events
we centered around it. Though the book is for sale, we’ve used it as a
marketing tool and launchpad for multiple blogs, speaking engagements and
events that not only inform our audience, but help us assert our place as
leaders in marketing strategy. You can do the same by creating content that
speaks to your audience in the format they most often use, whether that
means podcasts, online tutorials, printed catalogs—nothing is off the
Global search traffic:
SEO is a major influencer in everything we do. From crafting web copy to
writing blogs, we do our best to ensure our content is following the latest
search engine standards, while remaining a good read for the audience.
Creating quality content that can be shared across multiple channels brings
your brand to a larger audience, simultaneously increasing your global
online coverage and searchability.
That’s why we regularly produce blog content and share a monthly newsletter
with clients and industry contacts; we’ve seen large increases in website
traffic as a result.
Would you buy the third-best cereal from your town’s fifth-best
supermarket? Credibility is key to building confidence in your brand’s
quality, but you can build this trust even as you’re doing your job well.
Through sharing content with your audience members for free, you allow them
to witness your expertise and you plant your flag as a go-to resource in
your specialty. The one-two punch of quality products or services and free,
quality content is often a formula for credibility and long-term success.
As a small business owner myself, I absolutely understand the reluctance to
give away anything of value for free; businesses are run on hard data and
ROI, after all. However, assets like PR opportunities, global-search engine
traffic and credibility should not be discounted in lieu of demanding that
marketing directly drive sales.
Through committing to viewing your brand as a publisher instead of strictly
a salesperson, you can provide free, creative and highly shareable content
that will hold the attention of your audience far more effectively than
those pushy, “BUY NOW” ads of old. Your choice.