There’s been quite a rise in content which I’d charitably describe as ‘share porn’. It’s typically not pornographic: I call it that because its only purpose is to be shared – and in many cases it’s driven by a needy headline, such as “ex-soldier discovers homeless person – what happens next is amazing!”

A lot of the content is harmless enough and often amusing. It’s designed to be shared and my own Facebook wall often seems littered with them, so it clearly works.

This has raised a couple of questions in my mind.

The first is that when it’s a bit of fun, there’s no harm in such content and shares. But when a company decides to adopt this approach as part of its online marketing strategy then I think I feel a whole lot less comfortable.

Why? Well, it’s to do with the thinking behind it. Great content that’s part of a solid content strategy, I’m all for. Content that is needy and there to generate likes and shares for its own sake, I’m not – it smacks of old-style search optimisation, trying to rig your Google ranking and get traffic for its own sake. This thinking is the main flaw in most search optimisation strategies – the focus in on delivering traffic, not in creating conversions.

I have heard it said that “well, if we get more traffic then we’ll get more customers” but that doesn’t have to be the case. If the traffic is irrelevant to your website, then it’s a totally pointless exercise. They come, laugh at your video and then wander away again. Is that what you are in business for?

Viral content should support the brand. It should deliver traffic, sure, but traffic that’s going to result in customers, not just website hits. Do you want to measure your life in the number of wolf-whistles you get or the number of meaningful relationships you have?

The second question is why these things exist. The answer is simple: to be shared. There’s a currency in sharing. Search engines see highly shared content as very relevant and popular and typically rank them well. So, sites sharing this kind of stuff have been set up to typically do two things. The first is to get ad revenue from those hits. The second is to create pages which can accrue a value – which can then be sold, allowing the buyer to swap the content and have an instantly popular page.

Well, the first is fair enough if that’s what you’re in business to do. The second – well, it’s unethical search optimisation and you can bet your grandma's teeth that Google’s going to start penalising this kind of behaviour pretty sharpish. That’s what happens – search optimisation companies work out how to rig the search results, then Google shuts the door on them – so the search optimisation companies go looking for new tricks.

You don’t need tricks. You just need great content. Creating content that’s relevant to your brand and is sharable beats – hands down – trying to ride the ‘porn share’ wave. It will last, it won’t get blacklisted and it will deliver customers not just hits.

Also, there’s quite an uptake on brands looking for popular (and often irrelevant) content, then sharing that – in the hope that there’s some search engine love to be exploited. Really, is that what you want to do – boost someone else’s search engine results, likely an ad-farm or unethical search company?

It’s fine now and again (sharing good content is useful, let’s face it) but it doesn’t constitute a content strategy. The heart of a content strategy is always the same: your customers. Scratching their itch. Building relationships. Encouraging them to buy.

When creating or sharing content, always be mindful of that endgame. Hits and likes should be a means to a bigger goal and not a goal in themselves.


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