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RebelMouse’s 7 Facts About Contagious Media + How to Sustain It

RebelMouse Founder and CEO (and former CTO of The Huffington Post) Paul Berry has obsessed about contagious media — and how people consume it — for decades. He chatted with Steve Rubel, Chief Content Strategist at Edelman, for Rubel's podcast on all things storytelling, Content Convergence.

Click here to listen to it for free and get up to speed on ad blocking, audience growth, and the future of media companies and marketing in 2016.

In addition (and only in supplementary fashion!), digest some of the key points in our true gif-listicle form.


1. The Core of Contagious Media Hasn't Changed

When The Huffington Post turned on the lights in 2005, it sparked a launching platform for viral content. Everyone had a tab with HuffPo open at work, refreshing when something big happened to see what the big bold headline would be.

The same thing still happens, but now everyone is refreshing social feeds. Publishers declared the home page dead in 2014, but its gradual death began way before that. It doesn't mean contagious media isn't sustainable, but instead it breathes new life on social.

2. Contagious Media Is Fueled by Belief (or Nonbelief)

Time for a little #throwback: When social media was a lot of shifty chat rooms, RebelMouse CEO Paul Berry and BuzzFeed CEO (and advisor to RebelMouse) Jonah Peretti began a little site called Dog Island. The concept? Register your dog for a one-way ticket to a (fictional) island where it could "live free forever."

The site went viral, making international headlines, and was fueled by two kinds of people: Those who knew it was fictional, but remained bewildered at its existence, and people who believed the island was real and were outraged at the cruelty of pet owners who would give up their best friend to an island of unknown circumstance.

Either way, it was a viral moment that sustained life through belief and nonbelief. The same way your feed is likely dominated today by people impassioned by both belief (a touching holiday story that renews your faith in the modern world) or something Donald Trump said (the opposite of faith renewal, depending on your outlook).


From GIPHY

3. Stories Must Be so Shareable You Can't Stand It

The only way you can spark passion of belief or nonbelief is to give your content creators the tools they need to not only create viral moments regularly, but also sustain them. Contagious moments are on a huge bell curve, and it's only viable if it is shared. Social distribution allows viral moments to resurface again and again.

Think of when you dip your nose into a great-smelling candle, and it's impossible not to turn to the person next to you and say, "smell this." With content, that should happen five times over.

How do you know what will prompt the curiosity of the masses? Obsess over the dynamic content you see in your feeds every day the pop culture trends, language directions, and the general oddities of day-to-day life that ignite your interest and the interest of the communities you follow. Build your presence to match, and do it at scale.

4. Your Slogan Must Be Your Editorial Thesis — So Hire More Writers

If you want to master #3, the slogan of your brand, agency, or media company must also be your editorial thesis. You have to wake up every day ready to follow through on that message.

The best way to do this is not though a one-of-a-kind interface that requires an enormous, expensive office with a huge dev team, UX specialists, and SEO consultants. Good content comes from good writers who have already mastered the skill of carrying out a thesis. Hire more of them, build out your content strategy, and see audience growth.

And it can be done organically.

5. Cater Your Publishing to Distribution

Tabitha was able to see success because she won the great content race, but she also got part two right: Distribution. There's a saying at RebelMouse that's a spin on an old favorite: If a tree falls in a forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound? If you have great content and nobody sees it...well?

The traditional content cycle begins during the "before publish" process — which consists of an SEO guessing game that still has value. But at RebelMouse, we believe the story begins after publish.

It's after publish when your story becomes contagious. You build a bigger audience when your story is shared by profiles and pages with large followings. And the good news is that every topic of content already has a big fan base in the land of distributed platforms.

This is where content now lives.

6. There's a Big Human Factor to Distribution

There's a myth out there that writers have seceded to a MacBook and just want to be left to their creative devices, but that isn't true.

Writers are intensely curious and obsess over data just like anyone else. This is why the lines between writers and social media managers must completely blur. Writers should know how to cater their work across platforms, and should be given the tools to manage and tweak a distribution strategy that works.

It's the writer-turned-social expert who knows their content in and out, and can use an editorial eye to reach out and discover new relationships across platforms. RebelMouse products have ways to maximize every piece of content in the social ecosystem.

7. Media Companies Aren't Tech Companies Anymore

Brands are already beginning to transform, and should all become media companies. If you are hiring a huge team to launch a new website, you are doing it wrong. The nature of the website has changed dramatically and decreased in value since 2012. In 2016, democratize and publish in sync with the constant rhythms of the platforms and be everywhere first.

More good news: Becoming a media company can happen not only more quickly, but also at a fraction of the cost. RebelMouse builds and grows new media properties that give your content creators the tools they need to create contagious moments and sustain them on the daily.

NEW: Page Views per Particle Enabled for Google AMP

Increase mobile page views for every particle using Google AMP

RebelMouse has deployed an exciting update: We've enabled particle tracking in Google Analytics for articles using Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) format, which means every particle now triggers a page view event upon scroll. Before, just one page view event would be logged when the mobile page initially loaded.

Not Familiar With What This Means? Read On

The days of static, flat media are over. Sites with low performance scores, obtrusive ad experiences, and poor content structure simply won't make it. Knowing these truths, the way we think of an article can no longer be static either.

An article today now takes several forms: short-form, long-form, listicle, slideshow, etc. Because of this, we've created a simple framework called Particle Assembler that accounts for all possibilities when building out content.

We playfully call each piece of your content a "particle," which is quite literally a "part" of an "article." These particles have become the core way to author content on RebelMouse, and are standalone elements that use their own imagery, title, and copy. For example, let's say you create a post that's titled, "The Best Place for Tacos in Austin." Each taco destination in this article will have a lead image, the name of the restaurant, its location, and a description of the restaurant with images of their food. Each of these restaurant highlights contain enough information to stand by themselves as individual posts.

Building particles in RebelMouse's Entry Editor.

And they do stand alone successfully when you're on RebelMouse — each particle can be shared separately on social and each will register as a unique page view thanks to our latest update. This is a critical part of our modern pageview methodology that ensures our publishers deliver an elegant user experience to readers while still capitalizing on a meaningful monetization strategy. For instance, not only is every particle now a page view on Google AMP, but it's also a new revenue opportunity. This is thanks to the various placement opportunities for ads we offer within our Particle Assembler.

ICYMI, Google AMP is the search engine's lightning-fast mobile experience. With this update, sites powered by RebelMouse will not only deliver the best AMP experience to their users, but they'll also earn the page views their content deserves, too.

See the Massive Difference

In just a short period after implementing this change, one client experienced a massive spike in AMP pages per user, where it jumped from 1.6 to 8.2:

Here's what their AMP pages per user looked like just prior to the update:

If you're interested in experiencing this type of growth and getting more page views for your mobile content, request a proposal today and let's start working together. If you're already on RebelMouse, email support@rebelmouse.com or talk to your account manager to learn more about particle views for Google AMP.

Primary Tags: Structure Your Site for Success

Dynamic taxonomy improves usability and propels SEO strategy

It's not a surprise that quality content can easily be spoiled by a poor site experience. This is why we're extremely proud of the lightning-fast sites we power. But speed is only the beginning of the user experience.

The temperature on platform dependency has cooled in recent years, revitalizing the value of site visits and search strategy. This is good news for both users and publishers who need site stability to survive. Because of this shift, RebelMouse focuses on three primary key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure site usability and health:

  • Sessions per User: The average number of site sessions that each user has in a given time period.
  • Pages per User: The average number of page views that each user has in a given time period.
  • Time per User: The average amount of time spent on site by each user.

In order for these metrics to shine, a site's architecture must be organized in a way that increases every user's time on site. The logic is simple: If a site is easier to navigate, the user will likely stick around longer. This is the gateway to user loyalty.

One important way we support these KPIs is through our intuitive tagging structure for content. Let's take a look at our primary tag functionality and how it can set up any site for success.

What Is a Primary Tag?

On RebelMouse, we give you the ability to use as many tags as needed on every article to help keep you organized. But there's also an option to assign one primary tag to a post. A primary tag is built on the same principle as a primary section. One tag lets you assign higher importance to certain pieces of content when processing and organizing your posts.

The Primary Tag and Tags sections in RebelMouse's Entry Editor.

The Benefits of Primary Tags

Dynamic Taxonomy: One of the primary benefits of using a primary tag is that it exposes the depth of content available to your users. Many publishers do this through the use of sections, which often turns out to be redundant and, in turn, ignored:

Sections can often be annoying to navigate and repetitive.

Using a variety of relevant tags for every article, rather than just repeating the same handful of sections, opens up more opportunities for targeted descriptors. For example, instead of using "Recipes" as a section over and over again, a primary tag can be used to create specific content flows for topics like "Vegetarian," "Soups," or "Cocktails."

Richer SEO: Since a primary tag exposes more information about your article, it also supplies more relevant data to Google's algorithm. Surfacing content in usable ways supports Google's mission to serve content based on audience behavior and intent instead of outdated and frowned-upon SEO methods like keyword stuffing. This approach is called white hat SEO, or ethical SEO.

By targeting specific interests, your dynamic tag structure will allow Google to more accurately understand your article's content and rank it accordingly. On RebelMouse, this creates a trickle-down effect, because users can click a tag and quickly get directed to more relevant articles, which boosts your SEO efforts further.

Here's how the site experience looks on RebelMouse-powered EcoWatch when viewing their primary tag "Plastics."

RebelMouse-powered EcoWatch takes advantage of a primary tag construct.

Improves Crucial KPIs: As mentioned before, RebelMouse traffic experts are constantly focused on improving the three KPIs that matter most to site usability and building audience loyalty. These metrics answer the following questions:

  • Frequency: How often are users coming to the site?
  • Depth: How many articles does each user consume?
  • Duration: How long is each user staying on the site?

Looking again at EcoWatch's use of primary tags, it's important to note that a primary tag is exposed on every one of their articles. They're also used in a left-hand navigation module that features the latest stories and trending topics:

Start Leveraging Primary Tags on RebelMouse

If you aren't on RebelMouse yet, request a proposal today and let's start working together to make sure your site is optimized for user growth. If you're already publishing on RebelMouse, and want to learn more about tagging best practices, contact your account manager or email support@rebelmouse.com.

Page Speed Is Crucial to Your Marketing Efforts

Most marketers don't prioritize page speed because they don't think it impacts their bottom line. However, page load has a direct impact on conversions and revenue.

Here's a very simple scenario, supported by industry data, to underscore why the way pages are built and powered is crucial for paid media initiatives and your overall business:

Let's say a paid media campaign drives 100,000 new visitors to a landing page that takes five seconds to load. Google says that 53% of mobile site visitors will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load. So of the 100K mobile site visitors you paid to bring to the page, ~50K are leaving immediately due to poor page performance alone.

Some studies even show that bounce rate increases approximately 100% for every two-second delay. So, if site load jumps to seven seconds, you'll pretty much lose all of the visitors your paid strategies brought in.

A Poor Site Experience Costs More Than You Realize

Page load plays a huge part in customer dissatisfaction, too. Continuing on with our previous example, let's classify the ~50K that didn't abandon the page as dissatisfied due to poor page performance. As HubSpot points out, 79% of them are less likely to buy again from the same website. That's ~40K visitors never coming back to the site due to poor page speed. The loss is even greater when you consider how valuable returning visitors are: They represent up to 48% of all transactions and spend almost 2x more than new visitors, according to Business Insider.

Plus, people love to spread the word about a bad experience, probably more than a good one. 40% of visitors who had a bad experience with a website's performance would tell a friend or a family member. So of your 50K dissatisfied visitors, 20K are talking negatively about your brand. If they tell only one person each, that's an opportunity cost of another 20K potential site visitors and customers.

The main takeaway? Your paid media has to work much, much harder when you neglect to optimize your site for performance.

Owned and Paid Media Should Work Together for Better Efficiency

And speaking of site improvements to help the bottom line, marketers can't overlook the value of owned content (e.g., articles, reviews, social feeds, etc.) and its impact on overall traffic and lead generation strategies. Sites tend to see significant lift in audience reach and conversion when content is paired with commerce: For e-commerce companies, content can account for up to 69% of total organic traffic. And, even more compelling, conversion rates have been 6x higher for companies that adopt content marketing.

RebelMouse's CMS makes it easy for brands to systematically optimize page speed performance and organic reach, which allows paid media to be more efficient.

RebelMouse allows clients to easily manage website layouts and components at any time, ensuring sites remain fast and are rewarded by Google and Facebook. Our platform features proprietary SEO tools designed to help clients optimize organic search with every post and better align paid and organic search strategies for increased efficiency. Similarly, our platform also includes proprietary social tools to organically build community and growth, and our data helps clients spot winning organic trends that can inform paid social media.

RebelMouse Is a Partner That Can Guide You

When it comes to content marketing, it's important to be mindful of the relationship between owned, earned, and paid media — it will only help your teams engage and convert more audiences into customers and brand loyalists. At RebelMouse, we're proud of how we work with brands and our ability to provide the expertise, best practices, and modern technology that help teams become better content marketers. If you're a brand marketer, feel free to reach out to us to learn how RebelMouse can help you be more strategic and effective in your content marketing efforts.

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Target High-Value Users With Affinity Categories

Unlock valuable audience data and shape a new strategy

In today's landscape, quality content isn't enough — it's half the battle. Publishers need to produce shareable content backed by data to experience sustainable growth. At RebelMouse, we have a unique pageview methodology that provides an innovative user experience for every reader without sacrificing revenue and growth opportunities for publishers.

To do this, we track massive amounts of data across our platform through the use of custom-built Google Data Studio dashboards.

Click here to see the kind of growth our clients experience every day.

One of the best ways to discover more about your audience is by taking advantage of Affinity Categories. This feature breaks down audience demographics, including age, location, interests, and more. Affinity Categories are usually used to target audiences for ads, but we also use them to gain insights on what topics a site's visitors are interested in overall.

Normally, each category is listed out separately in Google Analytics. In the example shown above, our data experts split categories into separate levels to reveal different levels of audience depth. For instance, by splitting up the category News & Politics, we can better explore the detailed distribution of users interested in specific types of news:

  • News & Politics/Avid News Readers/Avid Political News Readers
  • News & Politics/Avid News Readers/Entertainment News Enthusiasts

From an editorial standpoint, this is useful because it allows publishers to determine and target varying levels of high-value users, improving the efficacy of a new content strategy or ad campaign.

If your site is already powered by RebelMouse, email support@rebelmouse.com to get a breakdown of your audience's Affinity Categories. If you aren't powered by RebelMouse yet, request a proposal today and start receiving the data you need to grow loyal followers at scale.

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