How to create compelling content: The answer was there all along

By India Johnson | 02 Oct 2015

"People love themselves. It didn't take the advent of the selfie for that to be evident." True story. This is the opening line to one of the Ten Commandments to create compelling content as told by Patrick Burke of Content Marketing Institute. The commandment? Thou shalt awaken our inner Narcissus. This, like the rest of his Commandments, is fairly self-explanatory - people like content that taps into their insatiable appetite for 'me, me, me'. Think Coca Cola's 'Share a coke with…' campaign, where bottles could be personalised with our very own names. They increased their sales by a huge 2% in just one summer (2014) with this crafty, self-promoting ad content. Think Elf Yourself, the lovable spoof website created by Office Max, through which faces of ourselves (oursElves?) and our unsuspecting friends could be plastered on to the dancing bodies of Santa's little helpers. Brilliant.

The viral bug

It seems so simple yet many of us struggle to answer the question, "What exactly makes great, compelling content?" And, come to think of it, even more of us struggle to create the type of content that goes full-blown, elves-doing-the-Macarena, Charlie-bit-my-finger viral. Perhaps the problem is that we've all been thinking way too hard about how to spread our message. Another of Burke's Commandments is as simple as this: Thou shalt harken to times past, i.e. everyone loves a good reminisce about pogs and furbies, or ABBA and mullets depending on how old you are. This is proven by the success of Buzzfeed's listicles - 50 things only '80s kids can understand, 48 reasons '90s kids had the best childhood, etc. It's the fact that content like this is so simple that makes it so effective. It's almost like it's been staring us in the face all along.

It was staring us in the face all along

Perhaps then, we don't need to be asking, 'What kind of clever, out-there content will spread and go viral?' But instead simply thinking about what we love reading, watching and pouring over on our lunch breaks. According to Burke and his Commandments, we're all really rather similar - or the majority of us are at least. And if our content is tapping into what the majority of the people want to consume, there's no doubt that we're doing pretty darned well. So let's stop all the analysis and the scrutiny, let's stop trying to fool people into 'liking' our content and get them to, well, actually like it instead.

The trouble in this industry is that there are too many people trying to make a quick buck, and too many trying to cut corners. But if one thing's for sure, it's that content that genuinely works will keep on giving. And while this is happening, the quick buck made by your competitor will be starting to look like a distant memory. 

Time to eat humble pie

As a final thought, another of Burke's Commandments: Thou shalt eat humble pie. Because if we've been trying to fool our readers with content that we wouldn't even read ourselves, humble pie is exactly what we should be tucking in to.