What Old McDonald Can Teach You About Social Media

social media viewpointsThe average American is hit with an average of 4,000 promotions every single day. And most people ignore almost all of the ads.

Consumers have developed extremely sophisticated filters. As a marketer, you’re fighting that filter every day.

What if you could take the filter out of play altogether? You can. Here’s how:

Shifting to Earned Attention

The problem with most marketing and promotional efforts is that they demand attention from people who are very stingy about giving it. With social media tools, we have an opportunity to take the filter out of play altogether by playing a different attention-getting game: we can earn attention rather than demand it.

You have a chance to earn attention from the right people—those with whom we most want to connect because they’re our most desirable audience. A shift from demanding attention toward earning attention seems subtle but it changes everything because you start operating differently.

We all pay attention to the things we find valuable, so as marketers we have to figure out how to provide something of value to the people we’re trying to reach. Once we do, we have their attention, and once we have their attention, we’ve gained that very thing we were so hungry for all along.

Five Ways to Earn Attention With Valuable Content

You can apply a simple concept that grounds you to create content that people will value. It’s the Old McDonald method of creating content:

E – Entertain
I – Inspire
E – Educate
I – Inform
O – Outrage

#1: Entertain

We’ve all received our fair share of funny videos. People send these to us because they found them funny and thought we would too. The Double Rainbow guy or Antoine Dodson of “Bed Intruder” fame wouldn’t be known if it weren’t for entertaining video. Entertainment is already something people are inclined to give their attention to, so why wouldn’t you seek to use that when it’s appropriate?

Content that’s genuinely funny, playful or dramatic earns attention for its entertainment value. There’s no reason why your content can’t entertain. Don’t force it if it’s not natural, but don’t hide it either. Perhaps you’re not terribly entertaining, but someone else in your organization is. What would it take to get her or him involved in creating content with you?

#2: Inspire

An emotional connection makes people love everything from Oprah to Hallmark commercials. A few years ago, Kleenex launched a great campaign called “Let It Out,” which immediately earned attention for its emotional connection with people. Social media inherently inserts a more human element into business if done well, so seeking to make an emotional connection using your content is a way to deepen that human connection.

When starting to think along these lines, consider capturing great testimonials from customers, sharing touching stories from employees, a heart-to-heart message from your CEO or featuring a cause that your organization supports. Your customers know people work for your company. Sometimes you just have to remind them.

#3: Educate

Another value that earns attention is education. Social Media Examiner has great instructional content that you find valuable. That’s why this is probably not your first time here and why you’re going to be back again. Here are some categories for you to consider as you create good educational content:

  • What to do
  • What not to do
  • When to do something
  • When not to do something
  • How to do something
  • Why to do something
  • Why not to do something

#4: Inform

Passing along information to people can also be highly valuable. When you share news, stats or even humorous updates on your Twitter account, you’re simply informing the people who see it. The difference between this category of sharing versus the educate category is that the focus isn’t on the “what to” or “how to” types of information, it’s focused on the “what is,” “who is” and “how is” of information.

#5: Outrage

Controversy is not always a bad thing. In fact, controversy can often earn attention for an issue that would otherwise go unknown. When considering controversy from a content development standpoint, you need to choose your battles wisely, but the idea here is that if you’re really focused on earning attention from the right people, there are some controversial issues that may endear you further to that group.

For instance, I have a friend who is a Microsoft product guy through and through. You might imagine what his feelings are for Apple products despite all the positive perception Apple has today. My friend isn’t interested in appealing to the Apple crowd on his blog, so he says things about Apple products that would make an Apple lover’s blood boil. He doesn’t care, though. His readers are like him and his views endear him further to the people he’s really interested in talking to anyway. He may be going against the tide of mainstream perception but he’s right in stride with the people he’s trying to reach.

Putting It Together

The EIEIO method of creating content should serve you well as you think about creating your own content. If all of your content can be placed in at least one of the five categories, you’re on the right track. If your content can land in multiple categories, even better! Remember that content for social media is not just text. It’s audio, video, images and text. Mix up your content delivery but always keep it focused on earning attention from the people you want to reach.

What are some of the difficulties you’ve had creating content? Do you find it’s a lack of ideas, time, permission or ability? How are you succeeding with your own content efforts? Share your comments in the box below.

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About the Author, Bill Seaver

Bill Seaver is the founder of MicroExplosion Media, a social media marketing consulting firm based in Nashville. He's an active blogger and podcaster. Other posts by »




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  • http://www.knicom.co.uk Knicom

    Good article. Any thoughts on how to measure earned attention?

  • http://businessplanlocal.com Rob Place

    Good tips in this post. Also keep in mind the power of Social Proof–a topic well covered on Social Media Examiner. Because there is so much noise, people pick and choose based on WHO is delivering the message just as much as WHAT the message is.

  • http://twitter.com/jonathan92591 Jonathan Thompson

    My difficulty is usefulness. I manage the social media accounts for the company I work for. However, I’m not an expert in our field of work. So I try and create funny jokes, links to hot topics, and an occasional pole (Entertain, Inspire). However, I rely on my boss to spoon feed me useful tidbits to share with our network (Educate, Inform). We’re not ready to handle the (Outrage) yet and our company lawyer has advised to stay away from that kind of content.

    So I just emailed my boss asking him to send me helpful tidbits and told him that I’d recycle it into useful content for our social media outlets/blog/and newsletter.

  • http://twitter.com/jonathan92591 Jonathan Thompson

    I receive a weekly update from Facebook with an array of data, and I can visually see our blog being shared by our counter. I can also view the clicks on our newsletter. So there are ways. Oh, and you can analyze your analytics from your websites. I even had a blog reader tell me how solid our content was and that he bookmarked our blog simply for that reason.

  • http://darraghkelly.me Darragh Kelly

    A most excellent post, man that was in a league of it’s own, brilliant. Iam a creative person by nature so I would struggle to come up with ideas but selling the a low risk environment is not always easy. Pushing value over promotion is key, a timely reminder for me, thanks!

    Darragh

  • http://mytwittertoolbox.com David Perdew

    Right now, time is the biggest factor to creating quality content like this. These are excellent tips, and you’re right that most of us don’t always think to include audio, video, photos, and comments from other posts to increase the entertainment factor of our blog efforts. I think the learning curve for most is still pretty steep, but it’s something you’ll never learn unless you try.

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Thanks for the comment and great question too! I use the LACE method for measurement. It stands for Leads, Awareness, Customer Service, and Engagement. You can measure all of those things and you really only get them in social media if you’re earning attention.

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Agreed. The WHO is important. When you’re starting out you aren’t a known WHO yet so all you have is the chance to do a lot of good WHAT. Lots of good, quality WHAT will eventually make you a WHO people want to listen to.

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Great idea Jonathan. You don’t want to try to speak to something you don’t know anything about. Maybe you can interview your boss and pull out some of the information that way. Also, don’t assume your organization always needs to be creating the content. There may be experts in your industry that would be happy to serve as contributors if you would ask them. That would be another way to get the education and/or information that will fit your audience.

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Thanks Darragh. Value is the key. I believe it’s the best way to really get (and keep) attention in this day and age.

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Thanks for the comment David. Think about your content like this: some posts are meals and some are snacks. A snack doesn’t take long for you to do while a meal might be a 400 word post. Determine your meal to snack ratio in a given week and take it from there. I personally try to have two snack posts and a meal post each week on my blog. I’ve found this fairly manageable even with a busy schedule.

  • http://www.standardmarketing.ca Ken Lapp

    Fantastic article, this is one aspect that gets overlooked in the usage of social media. People try to bombard users with automatic feeds in the hope of generating a following and it never pans out the way they imagined. I have always been a firm believer in quality and relevant content that is targeted, leading to connections and opening up to further communications. I loved the E-I-E-I-O and emphasis on EARNED ATTENTION, which may be difficult to grasp for traditional marketers.

  • http://www.coastaljazz.ca/ Hanne Lene

    thanks bill. an excellent post. the very reason i’m a reader of social media examiner. i work for a music non-profit and we’re slowly starting to build our presence on line beyond our website. as with jonathan, building relevant content is a challenge when your focus is split amongst a myriad other duties. i’ve been finding that twitter has been the most difficult to source materials for. i hope the eieio mnemonic will help me focus more clearly on paths that will help fulfill this area in particular, as well as the other platforms. thanks for the insights.

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Thanks Ken. I’ll take quality over quantity any day!

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Thanks Hanne. I think you’ll find EIEIO to help quite a bit.

  • Gymbodiva

    You mean “Old MacDonald”—you spelled it as if it were the food chain that came up with the EIEIO. (the food chains just make Americans overweight….)

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Thanks Gymbodiva. I checked it on Wikipedia and it looks like both are acceptable though MacDonald does appear to be commonly associated with the song. In a 140 character limit kind of world every letter counts!

  • http://brettgreene.co BrettGreene

    Bill, it’s a bit brilliant how you updated A-I-D-A into the age of engagement and also tied it to Old McDonald. Your E-I-E-I-O formula is perfect for companies trying to shift their mindset at attraction instead of interruption. Kudos!

    @BrettGreene
    http://OxsteinLabs.com

  • OZinOC

    Great post – love the acronym – Bill you are a legend!

  • http://www.facebook.com/wangzhilong Zhilong Wang

    Like the article, make it so straight forward that has me thinking about what to write for my next content. Thanks:)

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Thanks!

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Well said, attraction instead of interruption. That’s the whole idea precisely!

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Great! Which one(s) will you choose from EIEIO?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=13803832 Nick Robinson

    I think the LACE method would be a great idea for a new post. Bill, do you have a blog where you go further in depth on this approach?

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Thanks Nick. Yes, I’ve written about the LACE method before. The link is below…and great idea for a future post. I’ll certainly do that!

    http://www.microexplosion.com/2009/07/18/measuring-social-media-the-lace-method

  • http://www.3hatscommunications.com/blog/ Davina K. Brewer

    Bill, Good post.. may have to add my own Es and Is to this some day. Glad you made it about earned attention and putting it together. All the entertaining posts and videos won’t matter if there’s also not a bigger strategy behind it, so it’s good to also inform and educate. I try to do mix it up with my posts, so they provide both knowledge and entertainment value, thanks for the reminder.

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