How to create content people can't help but share and talk about

Recently, I've been writing quite a bit about why the way social media and multi-sided marketplaces are currently setup makes them, effectively, a trojan horse hiding in plain site that will hurt indie creators down the road.

For the full scoop, check out my series on the topic. Part 1: "The Long Tail" and part 2: "Fake Traffic and the Scam That is Social Media."

In summary:

If you want to make a profit from your work, now and into the future, DO NOT rely on Facebook, or Amazon, or any 3rd party platform (social media or multi-sided marketplace) to generate the bulk of your traffic or sales.

These platforms don’t care about you, and their policies WILL affect your business.

(I’ve seen people go from making 6 to 7-figures in sales on Amazon, to effectively zero overnight b/c changes were made by Amazon that they couldn’t influence...the same is true on Facebook and other platforms; here one minute, gone the next)

To future-proof your business or creative work, you need to do two things:

THING NUMBER 1: build your business on your own platform, where you control the content and distribution, and where you can communicate directly with your customers.

THING NUMBER 2: create Immediately Referable Content™  that makes it easy for people to find you, buy from you, and share your work with others.

Immediately Referable Content

Immediately Referable Content is any piece of content (blog, podcast, video, stream, etc.) that captures attention, elicits a desired emotional reaction, and inspires the readers / viewer / listener to take action + share with others.

Ultimately, this is the kind of content that you read and are already sharing before finish the entire thing, because (1) you get it, and (2) it gets you.

It works like this:

The 6 Components of Immediately Referable Content

To create content that people can't help but read, share, and talk about, you need to make your content:

#1. Relevant

There’s nothing wrong with sharing what you ate for breakfast or why you’d rather waterboard yourself than watch another Marvel movie, but unless you're a food blogger or film critic, you should probably be writing about the things that affect (or, at least, are important to) your readers and customers.

There's also a time-constraint to relevancy.

Is this something that works right now? Or are you just updating the cover of a 20 year old ebook on how to create your first website on geocities?

Nothing wrong with re-purposing content, just make sure it’s fresh, yo.

#2. Useful

There are only two reasons people read, watch, or listen to anything:

1. To be entertained

2. To be informed

Entertainment is art. “Create funny content” is not a strategy, it’s a premise.

But show the right person how to play a chord, or make the perfect espresso, or learn a skill that makes him more marketable to clients and you’ve got his attention.

Creating content that informs (teaches, instructs, demonstrates, updates, etc.) is not only much easier to create (you don’t have to be clever, just clear - and anyone can do that), but allows you to go where the market is (rather than try to force the market to your sense of humor, your will, etc. - which is a losers game).

#3. Speaks the language

If you're writing about something that genuinely affects your readers and customers, the next step is to talk about it in the words they use (not the ones you use to describe what you do).

For the record, this is NOT an SEO or google adwords hack.

I’m not saying you need to rank for keywords (though it doesn't hurt if you do).

What I’m saying is simple:

You should write the way your customers talk to one another about your subject / area / topic.

Does your customer think things like: “Boy, I really need to lean into my greatness right now.”

Or do they think things like: “I was passed over for the promotion. Mortgage is due soon. Family depends on me. I need to get my *** together. What do I do now?”

With the latter, there are a half-dozen topics you could extract and turn into IRC.™

  • “You lost the promotion but it's not over: Turn it around by doing this…”
  • “Bills piling up? Use this three step process to make them go away forever (without lighting them on fire).”
  • “Is stress at home turning your life upside down? Do this one thing right now…”

(excuse the click-baity examples. I’m just riffing here, and while actual click bait headlines are deceitful, they sure do make a good extreme example, am I right?)

By zooming in on the pains, problems, and challenges affecting your reader, and thinking about it the way THEY think about it, you end up creating content that speaks their language.

When someone speaks your language - they're talking about something your're interested in, they like the shows you like, they make references to the things you know and care about, etc. - you’re more likely to trust them. And trust is the precursor to more sales and more profit.

#4. Non-obvious

Are you sharing something that is unique, proprietary, or unorthodox? Or are you just echoing the same thing everyone else is echoing?

It’s’ okay if you’re the latter. I’ve been there before myself.

We’re human.

It’s easy to be fooled into doing or saying a thing because millions have marched in lock step before you.

But when it comes to business, art, writing, and creativity - literally nobody needs you repeating the same thing that’s already been said.

In any given niche, there’s such a thing as “common practice.”

(think: common sense, but relevant to your niche / industry / market)

Common practice is based on things that seem to work for most people, most of the time

(what makes it “common” is that everyone accepts it as the truth, and we accept that everyone else accepts it as the truth, consciously or unconsciously).

Here’s the thing:

Common practice is a good thing, but it’s not notable nor newsworthy - and therefore not worth writing about or talking about or sharing.

There is simply no reason to create content to share an idea that everyone already agrees with (e.g. high fructose corn syrup is bad for you, got it), or to share a solution that everyone knows, unless it’s done in a surprising, contrarian, or counter-intuitive way (or applied in a unique circumstance).

For example:

Surprising Content:

  • Common: “how to dress for work.”
  • Surprising: “how to lead with style.” (this is way more notable, noteworthy, and worth talking about b/c it demonstrates that image and style are much more important than "what should I wear")

Contrarian Content:

  • Common: “social media marketing is super coolz.”
  • Contrarian: “social media marketing is for people who want to feel busy but hate doing real work (or making a profit).”

Unique Circumstance:

  • Common: “learn how to grow your nest egg by investing in bonds!”
  • Unique Circumstance: “learn how to grow your nest egg by shorting the currency of a country based on the presence of forward-deployed US special operations forces currently on ground.”

(disclaimer: I’m obviously having some fun with my non-obvious examples; they’re absurd only for illustration purposes only. Before shorting currency, please consult a professional)

#5. Easy to share

Here’s a hack for you:

Make your content easy to share by removing anything that causes friction (ridiculous sidebar category widgets, obtrusive popups, a thousand social share icons that leave one bewildered, not impressed, etc.), and by saying (and repeating) what you want the reader/viewer/listener to do (like, thumbs up, heart, share, reply, email, whatever).

#6. Beneficial to share with others

Archetypically speaking, a hero is a person who climbs the mountain, slays the dragon, and brings back gold to share with the rest of his community.

Relevant information combined with practical instruction is better than gold for the person who wants to be, do or have more in life.

And that’s exactly why they will share it with others.

When you create awesome content, you make it a win for other people to share your work, because they become a hero for sharing.



Are you creating Immediately Referable Content for your blog, website, or online business? Why or why not? Share below!

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4 comments on “How to create content people can't help but share and talk about”

  1. Can't fault your logic, Tom. So much in the inbox, only so much brain time to allow it. Hook me in para 1 or 2 or I'm off like a hadron on a collision course from Warpspeed University.

  2. As always, Tom, you break down sensible steps into doable actions.
    I especially like #4 about doing the non-obvious to stand out amidst so many others vying for attention.
    Surprising, contrarian, or unique headlines and pieces of content encourages you to be more creative with words and patterns of thought, go deeper into the topic, and demonstrate a side of you people might not ordinarily expect.