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What Can You Learn About Content Marketing From Social Reinforcement?

November 12, 2015 Nadya Khoja

What Is Social Reinforcement?

Social reinforcement refers to reinforcers such as smiles, acceptance, praise, acclaim and attention from other people. Simply stated, it's a positive reaction that promotes repetition of the behaviour which provoked said social reinforcement. How does this apply to content marketing and content strategy?

I’m going to provide 3 examples of content that performed exceptionally high within their environments, and analyze just why that may have occurred.

Example 1: Basset Hounds Running

One of BuzzFeed’s most popular posts to date is a series of images from Flickr of a couple of basset hounds running on a beach. Unless you’re seriously debating whether or not to take your basset hound out for a jog with you, this post is completely void of practical value. Looking back at the definition of social reinforcement refers to reinforcers such as smiles, acceptance, praise, acclaim and attention from other people.

Basset hounds running

As you can imagine, the post by BuzzFeed certainly evokes all of those feelings.

Example 2: 6 Formulas For The Perfect Pinterest Infographic

This post which was featured on the Venngage blog is the most popular study on the site. The average number of shares that the blog generates is approximately 40 total social media shares. The study about the perfect pinterest infographic however generated 10 times that amount with nearly 400 total shares. There is no doubt that this blog post provoked a high level of social reinforcement for the site. The question is why? Well, Venngage is an infographic tool, and therefore 99% of the users on the tool are there because they are interested in making an infographic. The other 1% got there by accident. So when these users come across an article entitled “6 Formulas For The Perfect Pinterest Infographic”, it makes sense that they would want to learn the secret recipe behind infographic creation. Thus, the article offers high practical value. Secondly the article is backed up with concrete proof. This makes the post much more credible, and therefore much more likely to be referenced and passed on. Practical information is one thing, but if that advice is not credible, you risk slandering your name and your company’s name.

perfect pinterest post

Example 3: You Suck At Photoshop

If you’ve ever attempted to learn Photoshop on your own, I highly recommend this tutorial. Typically, when you think about watching a video tutorial in order to better acquaint yourself with a tool or service, the feeling you get is not usually one of enthusiasm. Tutorials can be pretty boring. Sure they are pumped to the brim with practical value, but would you ever consider them entertaining? Well,You Suck At Photoshop is a series of tutorials on YouTube, and each video has millions of views. As you watch the videos, you are instructed on how to use Photoshop by the depressed narrator, Donny, who lives a lonely and pathetic life in his parent’s basement. In one tutorial entitled, “Covering Up Your Mistakes”, Donny attempts to remove the evidence of what appears to be a dead cat in his living room.

You suck at photoshop

What makes this set of tutorials not only useful, but widely referenced is the underlying story. For centuries people have told stories in order to entertain each other, and those stories would continue to get passed on throughout time. Stories are told in order to establish stronger connections with the people in our lives. Donny’s life may seem pathetic, but there are many aspects of it that we can relate to. We learn about his experiences through his Photoshop endeavors (ie. how he may have killed his cat, how he is going through a divorce, how he wants to break the windows of his ex’s car, etc.). And as far fetched as some of these situations may appear, many of us have been in a situation where Donny’s thoughts have also crossed our own minds. We can accept Donny’s life because elements of it mirror our own lives. We give him our attention, not only because we want to learn about Photoshop, but because we want to hear more of his story. And we pass this information onto other people because not only did we learn something, but by sharing we may in turn receive social reinforcement.

Create Amazing Content With Social Reinforcement

The three examples above each use unique methods in order to achieve positive social reinforcement.

The Example The Type Of Content The Outcome
Basset Hounds Running (BuzzFeed) Cute/Funny image-based post of dogs running Result is a feeling of euphoria and delight
Perfect Pinterest Formula (Venngage) Credible research-based post analysing various infographic on Pinterest Result is practical insight on what factors to keep in mind when creating an infographic
You Suck At Photoshop (MyDamnChannel) Strong narrative tutorial on Photoshop told by a funny, albeit depressing character Result is an entertaining through-line as well as a practical guide for Photoshop

So what can you learn from this is in order to receive praise and attention from your content marketing, a fusion of visuals, credible research and a strong narrative that provides combined sensations of delight, practical value and entertainment is necessary. Positive social reinforcement is the result of consistently practicing and integrating the above-listed factors in your content. Continue to practice at polishing your content craft, and you will find that eventually you will build up a reputation for yourself, and your positive social reinforcement will consistently scale upwards.

Sources:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130804144503.htm

https://www.quora.com/Why-does-practice-make-perfect

http://www.jneurosci.org/content/31/37/13039.full

http://jonahberger.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/ViralityB.pdf

https://venngage.com/blog/understanding-social-reinforcement-will-help-perfect-content-creation/

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