We have 24 hours in a day, but 31 hours of activity. That's because we are stacking activities, for example, listening to a podcast while we go for a run or watching videos while we cook dinner. This has fundamentally changed the way we consume content.
Our audiences are time poor and as communicators, so are we. We need to reach people without interrupting them or making huge demands on their time, while still cutting through and remaining memorable. It's a hard ask and getting harder all the time as noise increases and tolerance drops.
However, as much as people want to block distractions, they are interested in hearing about things that interest them, provided it's done well and with respect for their constraints.
Micro-content is a perfect vehicle because it is strategic, stackable and shareable.
Creating strategic micro-content requires:
- A clear strategy - so that the parts add up to a meaningful whole
- The right mindset - the flexibility to see and leverage everyday business events as content opportunities, both spontaneously and a part of planned strategy
- Platform-specific executions of the same narrative - to optimise the audiences and algorithms of each platform
- A range of tools - which can be adapted to create micro-content through experimentation, testing and the refinement of strategy based on best results
- Batched content - cost-effective content produced in advance and drip fed through scheduling
1. A clear strategy
To do that, you need to be able to answer these 6 questions:
- What are your ‘spheres of conversation’?
- What public conversations do you want to participate in, or lead?
- What debates do you want to ignite?
- What do you want to be known for?
- What are your ‘flags in the ground’?
- What major themes do you have in mind when you create content?
Clarity around the big picture means the small pictures add up.
2. The right mindset
Edge Electrons is an energy technology company that sells smart devices to cut power costs. (Disclosure, they're a client.)
Energy is a complex area, difficult to explain because it's technical, with lots of nuance and has a highly engaged online audience with varying degrees of knowledge.
Although it lends itself to chunky editorials and podcasts that allow deeper dives, because at Zoetic we are geared towards micro-content, we saw an excellent opportunity when our client was explaining to us on the whiteboard how the device worked.
His explanation, grounded in genuine expertise, made a complex issue understandable. We simply asked him to repeat himself and I took a short video on iPhone. I wasn't intending to create content that day but what he did was so effective. We also know that people prefer real over schmick provided it's useful, so we knew it would work.
We captioned the movie on iMovie and since Edge is new to social media and still building an audience, put it on their Facebook page with $27 behind it.
All up the video took us 15 minutes to make and despite its real-time production values resonated strongly and is currently sitting at 23,000 views. It tells a tiny but strategically important part of Edge's story.
I share this example because once you start thinking with a micro-content mindset, you will see opportunities everywhere and can respond to real business needs (a question on a Facebook post for example, that is better addressed by video than text) in real-time, rather than planning to write a script and book a studio and putting it on the bottom of your to-do list with all the other great ideas.
People don't mind that something that is rough and ready if it's useful.
Of course, there is still a place for high production, creative and longer form video, in particular for corporate content, but don't be afraid of adding this to the mix.
3. Platform-specific executions of the same narrative
One of the big mistakes we see online is when people take something they've done for Facebook and plonk it on Twitter or Instagram or LinkedIn.
It's something I am guilty of myself. Often if I've been stressed or short of time I've taken the 'something is better than nothing' approach and repurposed my own work in this lazy fashion. It doesn't work. Believe me, nothing is better than something if you aren't being thoughtful and deliberate about how to chunk it up.
Platforms have specific audiences and algorithms. On Twitter, a single hashtag is optimum. Engagement drops when there are no hashtags or when there are two or more. On Instagram, the more the merrier, marketers recommend you use a minimum of 15 and up to the 30 limit.
Communicators need to stay abreast of and optimise them; first, by staying up-to-date through publications like Social Media Today, where these sorts of technical changes are identified and discussed and second, by experimenting.
For example, when LinkedIn first opened up its blogging platform (the second biggest publishing house in the world) for users, you could write a good post and get 5000 views (in Australia). However, most of us who use the platform have noticed a decline in our views over time.
LinkedIn now has media distribution deals, preferred influencers and is constantly changing its business model. Although we still recommend that clients who need to reach professional audiences still use the blogging platform, we're supplementing that with other insights we've learned from doing.
For example, we've seen that quick updates, in particular, if they are in story form, supported by engaging visuals are really cutting through. This can be a one-line insight with a relevant photograph or video or a mini-story.
This photo on the wall of a station that most Melburnians would recognise was used by Hope & Glory to reinforce its providence in and passion for Melbourne, the source of its market, and got 20,000 views in the feed.
Again, it was not an isolated post but part of an overarching strategy to tell their story direct to their audience through personal and relatable insights.
4. A range of tools - which can be adapted to create micro-content
It's vital to be strategic, but I don't think you can get by as a communicator today without understanding and being on the tools.
Knowing what's out there allows you to experiment, test and refine your strategy based on results, in particular when you bring it together with deeper insights about how online is working.
For example, we know that video is performing much better than just about any form of content online.
74%of all internet content is from video. Videos are retweeted six time more than photos on Twitter and can increase your reach on Facebook tenfold.
And video is set to become even more important as online search develops. While in the past we searched for a video on Google or YouTube or stumbled upon it because someone shared it with us, Facebook has now introduced video search, which allows you to search for live video via topics, business or brand names, which will make video even more powerful.
Ipso facto, video has to be on your agenda.
I'm personally enamoured by quality short form video. Some of it is so clever and creative it's mesmerising.
It can be educational like Edge Electrons video.
Or just branded.
Or just great branded content.
But many organisations don't have the time or budgets so we have to find ways to leverage the power of the medium in other ways.
Turn a blog post into a video
Now there are tools that allow you to adapt content you've already taken a lot of time and effort to produce, like blog posts, and using artificial intelligence, semi-automatically make them into videos.
Lumens5 is a great example. You pick a link to a blog post that you have written, click the text you want to highlight and either use your own images or ones suggested by the platform. Within minutes you can create an engaging piece of micr0-content that is consistent with your original message.
They can be very simple. When my scheduled tweets take off from Buffer, I often get a high-fiving gif of a Buffer team member. It adds a human face to a scheduling tool and it's a bit of fun.
Some of the best gifs are explanatory, because they go that one step further than a visual they can help us put two and two together.
This one for example from the @thingswork Twitter feed shows how a subway map in Berlin relates to its actual geography.
You can use them in any industry or business. How you use them is limited only by your creativity.
Here are some ideas
- Show a road detour by highlighting the new route on an old map
- Animate where an existing public transport route will change for upgrade works
- Show energy savings that can be achieved by changing lightbulbs
- Graphs different interest rates for banking products
- How to sit, stand, make a dance move, flip an omelette.
You can make gifs for free and use existing content, making the most out of earlier efforts.
5. Batched micro-content
One of the enormous advantages of using micro-content is that you can work out say 20 micro-stories that you can tell around a bigger issue and produce it in advance, in batches, which you just drip feed out through your scheduler (we use Buffer, but there's also Sprout Social, or Hootsuite, or a range of others).
The strategic work and this can take a bit of time, is figuring out what the stories are.
A good way into this is to ask yourself is what questions people typically ask about this the area you work in.
Often we don't consider what we know to be important because it's so much a part of us that we assume others already know that information, but they don't.
Get cues by listening closely to your audiences or using the Google ad word tool which will tell you how people are phrasing questions when they search for answers online.
Once you know what you want to say you can set aside a few hours and shoot one social video after another, from iPhone or iPad or with better gear, depending on your circumstances and what you want to create.
You can put these in a Dropbox or secure cloud storage and share it with the relevant people for approvals or with partners you'd like them to amplify it on your behalf.
You can then load up the micro-videos into Buffer and schedule them to come out one by one over a period of months. We normally recommend you do three months' worth of micro-content at a time as this gives you breathing space but still allows you to produce fresh ideas and adjust the next set of micro-content to reflect emerging issues as well as learnings from the earlier quarter.