March Madness: Longer Content Performs Better Despite Shorter Attention Spans.

Social Media Marketing
Goldfish now have a longer attention span than we do. Humans: 8 sec. Goldfish: 9 sec.

This time of year everyone is focused on the NCAA Basketball tournament as we all try to pick the winners and losers of the brackets. But those of us who work in social media are always trying to pick the winners and losers of our content. With more and more investment in social media comes greater expectation of ROI and still only half of corporate executives are convinced of social media’s value.

What is the Magic Formula to Become a Social Media Champion?

This is where the madness comes in – What we have been told may not actually be true. The average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to just 8 seconds by 2013 – that is shorter than the attention span of a goldfish! Nicholas Carr’s book “The Shallows” explains this with research that says the Internet has actually changed the physical structure of our brains reducing our ability to focus.

So when digital marketing experts tell us to create shorter content – around 200 words – this makes a lot of sense. Short Attention Span = Short Content. Yet this strategy is not necessarily the best. You have to go deeper and look at other factors. If your goal is to have people read all your words then this many be true, but if you value other goals like shares and views, you should give longer content more consideration.

Why Add Words that People Won’t Read?

  1. Increased shares
  2. Added link backs
  3. More search views

Apparently it doesn’t really matter if people read all of your copy, if you care about getting more people to see it. Madness. Quick Sprout confirms this. They performed an analysis on their blog and found that posts with more than 1,500 words received 68% more tweets and 22% more Facebook likes than articles with fewer than 1,500 words. They also cite a popular online journal that performed a similar analysis and found the results reported in the chart below.

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Longer copy gets more social media shares across networks. Via Quick Sprout at http://bit.ly/1ggIPic

In addition to more social shares, Moz research has found that longer content generates more link backs and more link backs help with SEO (search engine optimization). The link backs further improve search results, which increases views along with the social shares.

Finally, longer content also improves organic search. According to serpIQ, the average content length for Web pages that rank in the top 10 results on Google is at least 2,000 words. The higher the ranking, the more words – more people are choosing and liking longer content.

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Top 10 Google search results with page word length. Via Quick Sprout at http://bit.ly/1bQL13C

Longer Means More Traffic, but Don’t Expect Them to Read Most of It.

Despite all this, positive research for longer content, other statistics from Neilson Norman Group tell us that people only read 20%-30% of that content. They also found that 79% of people scan pages they come across and only 16% read word-by-word. Here it seems that our short attention spans win out. On a 1,500 word post that means most people are only reading 300 of those words.

We are attracted to longer copy, but our goldfish brains don’t allow us to read all the words. We also like to share longer copy to perhaps try and make people think we have read the entire article and prove we can sill focus. Our attention spans are shorter, but we don’t want other people to know it! Madness.

This reminds me of when I worked on the advertising account for an ice cream brand. What we discovered was that in the ice cream business customers are always attracted to the new flavors, but at the end of the day most sales came from plain old chocolate and vanilla. New flavors attract attention, but most people buy chocolate and vanilla anyway. In a similar strategy, write longer content to attract attention even if your reader only consumes one fifth of it anyway.

Extra words serve an important purpose even if viewers don’t read them. Longer content makes the article look more substantial to attract attention and make it worthy of being shared. Longer content also allows more room for keywords and search optimization. It doesn’t matter if most people won’t read all of it. Madness? Perhaps, but how many upsets will happen in the basketball tournament this year? One thing we can learn from the NCAA championship is that you must always plan for the unexpected.

What have you found in your experience? Have you tried longer content?

photo credit: fish splash via photopin (license)

Social Media Response Experiment: Honda, Under Armour & Saucony.

The other day I was listening to the Social Pros Podcast with Jay Baer of Convince and Convert and Jeffrey Rohrs of Salesforce Marketing Cloud. They were interviewing Julie Hopkins of Gartner Research and were talking about her blog post “I am Loyalist, Read My Tweet. Please?”

She is an avid runner and took the time to take a picture of her Saucony’s to Tweet to the brand and their campaign hashtag. But she never received a response. This prompted me to conduct my own experiment, which I collected the results and shared them with my Social Media Marketing course. Social Media Marketing ExperimentAs you can see above I tweeted to three brand’s Twitter handles and campaign hashtags with what I thought was positive brand messages. It was also relevant to the cold weather many are experiencing and talking about in the country.

Of the three brands Honda and Under Armour responded. Honda even asked a follow up question to keep the engagement going. To this day Saucony has not responded. My experience was no different than Julie Hopkins. Is Saucony not listening or have they decided not to invest in the resources to make individual responses?

Saucony actually has a Find Your Strong  website that aggregates all Twitter posts to the brand. Smart strategy to collect consumer generated brand content, but does this equal the level of engagement as a response in Twitter?

Social Media MarketingI love Saucony and have been wearing their running shoes for years. I don’t know if the no response will make me switch to another brand, but it did put a ding in my image of the company. At the very least I will be less likely to talk so highly of them to other runners.

What do you think? Are our expectations of brands too high? Is it unrealistic to expect an individual response from a big brand? According to one study 

Do you think response or no response in social media will impact brand performance?

Budweiser Wins Super Bowl of Advertising Again. What Does Bud Get That Others Don’t?

As I pointed out in a previous Super Bowl post, my research found that the more complete story a Super Bowl commercial tells (in Five Acts) the higher the commercial performed in Super Bowl Ad Ratings Polls. We found that other factors like sex appeal, humor, emotion or animals didn’t matter. They appeared at the top and bottom of the polls with no discernible pattern. In Super Bowl XLIX the research held up again. Take a look at USA Today’s Ad Meter’s results, do some quick Five Act coding and you will see for yourself.

This year Budweiser again takes home the prize. They finished number one in the 2015 USA Today Ad Meter and other consumer Super Bowl Ad rating polls with “Lost Dog.” This was a sequel to last year’s top spot “Puppy Love.” View the spot below to see how it is a full Five Act story. But is it the dog that makes them a winner? Take a look at the top 10 spots in the poll. None of the other most likable commercials feature animals, but they all do tell complete Five Act stories.

Story may be more likable, but does it sell? Many who view and like the Bud spots say that is great, but this does it sell? According to a 2014 Beer Industry Report, Bud and Bud Light control 34% of domestic beer sales – more than any competitor. The closest is Coors Light with 10% and Miller Lite and High Life for another 10%. And despite increased growth, all the craft beers combined (Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Shiner, etc.) still only account for 8% of all domestic beer sales – 1/4 of Bud and Bud Light sales.

BeerShare

Who Fumbled in the Super Bowl of Advertising? Many did, but Carnival really missed the boat. They had a great complete Five Act commercial that they released before the game called “Get Away,” but for some reason choose to run another spot called “To The Sea” during the game. The spot they ran did not have story development. Instead it featured a JFK speech voice over with typical cruise ship imagery. I believe “Get Away” would have been a top 10 spot, but instead they finish at the bottom of the poll at 44. What do you think of the two spots?

Is there dramatic form? “Get Away” is a great complete story of a woman getting away from everyday life responsibilities and hassles. This has great action movie like drama drawing you in as she runs from the mob of life to the cruise ship at the end of the road. Will she make it? Yes and all is resolved as she swims in the ship pool with her family. A great relatable story in Five Acts. On the other hand, “To The Sea” is shots of a cruise ship with the JFK speech. There is really no character introduction, complication, rise in action, climax, falling action or resolve. This has Zero Acts. One Act if you consider JFK as a character in the story.

In a Blomberg article the creators of the Carnival spot said they wanted to reach people who never cruised. Which spot do you think does a better job?