Posts Tagged ‘content’

Best of 2014: John Oliver Gets Spreading Information In The Social Age

A little over a month ago we set out to write a blog post about the popularity of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. However, along the way, we learned that John Oliver and his team are really masters of content in a social media world.

The team at Last Week Tonight has managed to get long form content shared more than almost any outlet we’ve ever seen and it showed us that content can come in many forms and lengths, but the key to getting it shared is really what’s inside the content.

Check out the lesson we learned from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver that quickly became one of our staff favourites of the year.

This post was first published on November 11, 2014:
Last Week Tonight with John OliverYou can debate back and forth for days on whether Last Week Tonight is a news program or a comedy and entertainment show… or even both. But one thing you can’t debate is that John Oliver has been instrumental in opening the eyes of his viewers to subjects that they should probably know more about.

And when we say viewers, we don’t just mean the people who watch his show live on HBO, we mean everyone that has seen the numerous clips from John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight since it debuted at the end of April this year.

Yes, the show we’re talking about is an HBO program, which means that viewers need to subscribe to HBO through their cable company to see the show live as it airs on Sunday nights. However, what John Oliver’s show has done that not many other shows do, especially ones on premium cable subscription channels, is found a way to make his interesting content very sharable by putting all of his segments up on YouTube.

And this is why we say that John Oliver gets it. He knows that if you want your content to spread it has to be three things; interesting, entertaining and sharable. Last Week Tonight is all three of these, which is why it got so popular so fast.

We used MAP, our social media monitoring and analytics software, to dig a little deeper on the social phenomenon that is is John Oliver’s brand of entertaining news.

Since Last Week Tonight debuted at the end of April this year, the show’s name or John Oliver have appeared in over 818,000 social media posts.  Mentions have appeared in 14,496 blog posts, 17,346 online news articles, 26,152 forum postings and 760,222 tweets.

Sysomos MAP - Activity Summary

There has also been, over the same time period, 11,973 videos posted that have John Oliver or Last Week Tonight mentioned in their titles or descriptions. And, to add to that, only 83 of those videos come from the show’s own YouTube channel.

Sysomos MAP - Video Activity Summary

While the number of mentions that John Oliver and Last Week Tonight have received since their show debuted is by no means an astronomical number, it’s really what was in those posts and how many people saw them that mattered. And what was in them, was videos from their YouTube channel.

You see, John Oliver and Last Week Tonight knew that not everyone has an HBO subscription. So they made their content easy to find and share somewhere else, the world’s second largest search engine, YouTube. And it’s been working for them.

We pulled up some of the stats from the Last Week Tonight YouTube page. What we found that the channel has over a million subscribers. Even better though is that the 83 videos posted to the channel have amassed over 150 million views. That’s not bad since the channel has only existed for just about 6 months.

Sysomos MAP - YouTube Channel Analysis

Even more impressive is when we looked at which of his videos were the most popular. The top five most popular videos from the channel weren’t the short funny little two minute videos. All five of them were the show’s longer form feature stories that average around 14 minutes in runtime.

Sysomos MAP - Most Viewed Videos On Last Week Tonight's YouTube Channel

Even more interesting though is when we go back to the social mentions of John Oliver and Last Week Tonight we started talking about. When we look at those mentions on our popularity chart, which plots out the mentions over time, we can see a bunch of large spikes in conversation. All of them, including the largest spike on August 18th, happen on Mondays, the day after the show airs on HBO. People would literally be waiting for the videos to go up the next morning so they could see them and share them.

Sysomos MAP - Popularity Chart

So, what can you learn from John Oliver and Last Week Tonight?

The main take-aways we see here is that there is no magic length for how long a blog post or a video should be to optimize how much your content gets shared through social media. Your content should be as long as it needs to, as long as you can keep it interesting, entertaining and make it easily sharable. If you can do that, people will be anxiously waiting for your content so they can see it and share it.

And now, just for fun and so those of you not familiar with the show can understand what we’re talking about, here’s one of our favourite clips from the first season of Last Week Tonight (of course it has to do with the internet):


Best of 2014: What’s the ROI of Sharing Content on Social Media?

Social media is a great place to form relationships with customers, potential clients and other people.

This is something we hear all the time. But if social media is meant for forming relationships, why is there so much content sharing going on through all the different networks?

This was a question we tackled in this staff favourite post from earlier this year when we explored why people curate and share content in social media.

This post was first published on November 10, 2014:
SharingFor all the talk about social media being a place to engage and have conversations, sharing content is probably what most people do the most.

The question is why so much sharing?

What is it about social media that makes it such an active medium to share interesting articles, photos, infographics, videos, etc. with other people?

Is it vanity? Is it goodwill? Is it a way to reward interesting, weird, different or high-quality content? Is it about personal branding?

It’s probably all of the above, as well as many other reasons. The reality is social media is a super-easy way to share content, while human beings are inherently information disseminators.

Telling people information about things we have found, seen or read is part of our personal make-ups. It’s what we do, so social media only serves to facilitate and accelerate this activity.

That said, a recent survey of Canadians using Twitter and Facebook showed some interesting differences in how we use different platforms.

On Twitter, for example, 79% of respondents said the reason they shared content was to endorse it. On Facebook, endorsing content was only cited by 32% of respondents.

Many of the other categories ranked fairly closely with the exception of “gain followers/build a brand”. Only 2% of Twitters users said they shared content to achieve this goal, compared with 11% of Facebook users.

One of the more interesting trends to watch in 2015 is how content curation will become more popular and valuable for brands and individuals.

While there are many reasons to share content, there is more interest in how shared content is packaged and tracked, and how it can deliver better ROI.

Platforms such as Pressly, which allow brands to create destinations to share their own and curated third-party content, will likely gain more traction so brands can have more control shared content.

At the same time, you will likely see more services such as, which lets people add a small “branding widget” when they share content via social media. It’s a way to gain a little more of the spotlight, other than the goodwill of sharing content.

In many respects, the social media sharing economy is evolving and moving in interesting directions. While people will continue to enthusiastically share, there will also be more ways to capitalize on this activity.

share social media

Digital Marketers Need to Refocus on Content

It seems people who want to succeed in social media, keep ending up at the same starting point.

All marketers, PR professionals and community managers need to realize the main engine of social media is content.

Activity and engagement are obviously vital but they are a product of content.

The question is how do you create all of the content needed daily or weekly.

The answer isn’t as complicated as you think.

First, you are not responsible to create all content by yourself. Consider guest writers, ghost writers (prepare them properly!) and even just curating existing content.

When it comes to curating be sure to source, or even create a companion piece in which you provide additional information and context from the original writer. This has been a hugely successful tactic.

Your social media success will rely most heavily on the content you create from scratch, and the voice you are able to develop to convey to users and readers.

What makes the best content is always a topic of contention and debate. Personally, I would have to go with strong opinion. This is what drives me back to a brand or writer time and time again.

What do you look for in content around social media?

What Works Better: Content or Contests?

Within the social media marketing landscape, content may be king but contests are the sexy queen.

While a steady flow of solid content can be a beneficial way to engage with consumers, contests are the “digital honey” that catches their attention, pulls them into the “hive” and, as important, keeps them coming back.

Let’s face it: people like to win prizes or receive free stuff. And contests are great way to feed these desires. The power of social media is it provides people with an easy and efficient way to share the news about their prizes, which creates a ripple effect for companies looking to maximum their contest activities.

So what’s more important: content or contests?

The reality is creating content involves a lot of work and effort that has to happen on a regular basis. To feed the beast, fresh content has to be continually generated. And there is no guarantee the content being created will resonate or be shared by people – even if they enjoy consuming it.

On the other hands, contests are appealing because they tap into the appetite among consumers to win things. Contests have been a long-time staple used by companies to attract attention and build their brands. So it’s no surprise contests have been enthusiastically embraced by companies looking to boost their social media marketing efforts.

From the outside looking in, it is difficult not to get the impression contests are better than content because they’re easier to offer and less expensive. Why not just offer a steady stream of contests to attract and retain users as opposed to investing in the effort to create content?

It may be a tempting to love the Contest Queen more than Content King but a more realistic and better approach is a happy marriage between the two.

Content offers a company’s social media efforts a solid foundation than can provide a competitive and long-term edge. Meanwhile, contests can be layered nicely on content to give social media programs some sizzle and pizzazz from time to time.

An important thing to remember with contests if they have to be easy for people to participate in, it has to be simple to share the contest with other people, and, if possible, there should be incentives for people to spread to word (e.g. an additional entry for each person who is notified about the contest or enters it.)

Another consideration is the prizes don’t have to cost a lot of money. In most cases, it’s not the size of the prizes that matters but the chances of winning and the ease of entering. In an ideal world, there is a happy middle ground between a prize that is too modest to be appealing, and one that is too expensive to offer.

Within a successful and effective social media marketing program, content and contests are be an effective one-two punch that can complement each other.


Content is King But Needs Worker Bees

In previous posts, we’ve talked about the value of content as a key component of a viable social media presence. But an issue that many companies tend not to focus on is who creates the content.

In a recent blog post, Brainzooming’s Mike Brown did a great job of putting this reality in the spotlight, including a quadrant graphic that shows content richness and the ability to integrate it into your social media programs.

The creation of content falls firmly into the realm of tactical execution, which can be a lot more work than anticipated because so much content must be created to have a rich and engaging social media presence. I describe it as “grunt work” because it often receives less attention or appreciation than it deserves.

But that’s the thing about social media – strategy is sexy and glamorous; tactics are challenging and a constant pull on resources.

For companies and organizations getting into social media or looking to improve their efforts, a crucial consideration is determining the available resources so decisions can be made about how many services can be supported properly.

It makes no sense, for example, to have a multi-faceted social media program if the allocated resources are spread too thin. One of the key tenets I preach is it’s better to do less and do it as well as you can rather than do a mediocre job at many things.

It sounds like a straightforward approach but too often there is a perception the more you do, the better the effort.

Unfortunately, this is misguided.

The bottom line is content has to be constantly created, otherwise target audiences will lose interest and drift away. Second, there has to be good quality content that engages, enlightens or entertains. Third, there is needs to be people to make content happen, which can involve full-time employees, contractors or third-party agencies.

The Importance of the Editorial Calendar

Social media is a beast with an insatiable and never-ending appetite. If it goes hungry, a company’s social media efforts can start to suffer as people lose interest and get less engaged.

With steady flow of content so important, a key element of a tactical plan is an editorial calendar, a document that spells out what content will be appear when over a period of weeks or months. An editorial calendar is important because it provides a social media program with structure and supports the creation of constant content.

This lets a company know what’s coming editorially and plan in advance as opposed to creating content on the fly, which can put a lot of pressure on a social media person or team.

In some respects, an editorial calendar runs counter to how social media operates because it establishes a long-term plan as opposed to being part of a real-time engagement and conversation plan.

But an editorial calendar is actually a way to support real-time activity by providing a foundation upon which conversations and engagement can be layered.

Creating an editorial calendar is a fairly straightforward process. It starts with selecting a period of time – let’s say three months – and then adding regular events or themes so that a regular schedule is created. It could be a specific kind of blog post each week, a poll or a contest.

The idea is that things happen on a regular and ongoing basis so the social media team knows what to do, and the audience knows what to expect.

In an ideal world, an editorial calendar makes life easier for a company to feed the social media beast.

Social Media No Longer a Novelty. Now What?

In the wake of all the buzz surrounding Quora, which is an old concept (online Q&A) wrapped in a nice social skin, one thing has become apparent: the novelty of social media is pretty much over.

The major players and platforms are established – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, WordPress – and most people have heard about them or using them. It was only a couple of years ago that social media was something shiny and new; now it’s becoming just another part of the communications landscape.

So, now what?

For starters, social media is losing its lustre as a competitive differentiator. It’s no longer good enough to be first or among the first to leverage a social media service. Being on Facebook and Twitter is now table stakes. Blogs are boring (and that’s not a bad thing), while LinkedIn is no longer a mystery (although getting a lot of out it is still somewhat of a mystery).

Using social media just means you’re in the game. Now, the key is making sure that you play the game well, which all about really leveraging the tools and services as much as you can.

The most important part of the “game” is content because this is where creativity, engagement, energy and smarts can be effectively and powerfully layered on top of social media services. Content is what will separate the wheat from the chaff.

Companies that can create high-quality content will rise above the crowd because creating great content is a lot more challenging than simply starting a Twitter or Facebook account.

All the attention now being showered on Quora illustrates how social media is no longer new or unique. Quora is interesting but it’s not a show-stopper or likely not something that will go mainstream. But Quora is one of the few new-ish social media services around so it’s the talk of the town – sort of the new kid at school who becomes less interesting within a few days.

If you’re a company looking to do well at social media, you’ll need a strategic and tactical plan but, increasingly, success will be determined by the quality of your content – be it blog posts, videos, photos, contests, polls or interesting tweets and updates.

Sorry, It’s Not All About You

Over the past few days, we’ve been exploring the issues for why social media efforts fail (the dreaded start & stop, the inability to execute, and unrealistic expectations). Here’s another pitfall: social media content that exclusively or mostly features content about your company, brand, people, services, products and news.

As much as social media can be used to distribute corporate news, it is not a corporate broadcast medium that is all about you. In an ideal world, there is a healthy amount of corporate news but it’s mixed with content about industry news, developments, trends and people.

This kind of content provides the editorial variety that engages people on a regular basis by providing something for everyone. It’s based on the old adage that variety is the spice of life.

Many companies fail with social media because they are too self-absorbed. They believe that social media should only be used to talk about or promote corporate activity. There is a place for this kind of thing but it can’t happen all the time otherwise your audience will quickly get a bad case of editorial fatigue.

As interesting as your company may be, there is only so much of you that people will accept – and even then it has to be part of a healthy, balanced editorial mix.

So what kind of content should company distribute other than about themselves? Some ideas include blog posts and news about industry news and developments, links to interesting services, videos and commentary about what’s happening.

By using social media to talk about things about than yourself, it means that when you do promote corporate activity, it’s accepted as opposed to rebuffed.

Blogs are the Workhorses of Social Media

Let’s face it: blogs are boring.

In comparison to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and new social media players such as Foursquare and Gowalla, blogs aren’t sexy or glittery. Blogs are four-door sedans, Twitter and Facebook are two-door convertibles with the top down. It really wasn’t that long ago that blogs were the toast of the town but that seems like ancient history now.

But while blogs may not be shiny, sleek or sexy, they are the workhorses the social media. Sure, they require a lot of time and effort but the benefits of having a well-written blog that engages, entertains and informs is invaluable.

A good way to think about a blog is it’s a content machine that can be a key pillar within a social media program. At their core, blogs give companies a public platform to deliver perspective and insight, while offering customers and potential customers the opportunity to get involved by leaving a comment or sharing a post with other people.

For companies looking to establish a stronger digital footprint, blogs are valuable because Google and other search engines love new and fresh content. If you are looking for some organic search engine optimization, get blogging.

Another important role played by blogs is they generate content to fuel a variety of other corporate activities. A blog, for example, can be used by communications, marketing and sales teams to offer information about what a company does and how it thinks and operates. In some respects, blogs can be dynamic digital brochures.

Blogs can also fuel social media programs. For example, a blog post can provide content for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Foursquare – content that can be automatically posted using tools such as TwitterFeed and

Blogs can also enhance a company’s personality. Rather than just a static Web site that provides corporate information, blogs are written and nurtured by people who can connect and engage with readers.

Despite the benefits of a blog, it can be a tough sell when companies are exploring the use of social media. The biggest obstacle is that blogs require time, ideas, creativity and good writing skills. These are things that many companies may have a hard time sourcing or allocating.

At the end of the day, however, a blog is a solid investment that can generate healthy dividends.