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Snacking Your Content

  |  August 23, 2013   |  Comments

The opportunity for snackable content is in finding ways to slide your message inside these new moments that technology and media have created for us.

There was an idea, a long time ago, for a web series called "90 Second Romances." I won't tell you the client behind the idea, but I can tell you that it was a bubbly drink thing targeting women in their 30s. The challenge in front of the brand was a straightforward one, if one tied to the expectations of reaching consumers: they wanted to do video but were concerned that people were no longer watching TV.

The development of the strategy followed two threads, though, that really brought about some new thinking. The first was the realization that maybe the "video from the brand" didn't need to be a commercial. It could, instead, be a piece of content that the brand knew that their consumers liked and associated with the brand itself. That was where the idea came up of doing romance stories. They had long sponsored romances in one form or another. This was the new idea of simply making their own.

The second realization was that, while the romances they sponsored were long form (think soap operas and the like), there was no way that a consumer would tune in for that long for something from a brand. That was where the "90 second" part of the idea came from. The concept was to create extremely short boy-meets-girl stories. The secret hope was that people would watch tons of these, one after another.

The idea never launched (the best ones never do, right?). This was an era before YouTube and definitely before broadband or mobile video. The audience would have been too small and the cost too high for it to make sense. But it was clear that something was discovered: snackable content was conceived.

What Is Snackable Content?

In 2012, Pew Research did a review of the average length of the most popular videos. The trend was clear: the most popular videos are short. Now, you can argue that a driver of that data point is the popularity of music videos on the site, and few songs run much more than five minutes. But, even still, 28 percent (the biggest chunk) of popular videos are less than a minute long.

This is the basic idea of snackable content: snacks are small. These are pieces of content that seek to make one, possibly two, simple points in direct and entertaining ways.

Consider BuzzFeed, the current master of snackable content. According to public traffic numbers, the average length of a visit to BuzzFeed is about five minutes - a quick pop in to a site to watch or read something and then you are off. Interestingly, the biggest driver of traffic to BuzzFeed is Facebook. The site gets about three times as much traffic from Facebook as it gets from Google (an important point to note when we discuss how to make your content snackable).

Essentially, snackable content is content that has been slimmed way down to be easily and quickly consumed, makes a simple point, and (perhaps most importantly) compels sharing and makes you want to have another.

Making Your Content Snackable

There are a few ways to make your content ready for the snacking audience. It is a fairly simple process, but it is a way to take the investment you have made and make it go much further.

Here are few ways to snack up your content.

  • Start with a big piece of content. There's an old phrase that I think is attributed to Mark Twain: if I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter. It is always easy to start with a large piece of content and extract pieces from it. If you have a white paper or a long video, begin there and try to find individual ideas that can be pulled out.
  • Put the snack into different forms. There are 95 varieties of Oreos. From this factlet, you should learn that you can take one idea and morph it into multiple forms. Different people will want your idea in different forms. You can take one idea and turn it into a list, a tweet, an infographic, and a video. One idea, many different ways, allowing each person to find and consume it the way they want.
  • Chain the content together. Inherent in the idea of snacking is that people consume one small thing after another, often without even realizing how many they consumed. You need to do this with content. As you extract small ideas and build them out, make sure that you are grouping them together. The moment the consumer finishes one article, she should immediately be presented with a chance to read another.
  • Share the content! Snacks are best shared. As BuzzFeed's numbers attest, traffic comes from people who wanted to tell others about the content they just consumed. You must make sure to use social channels not only to promote your content but also to propagate it. Put a share button everywhere and measure the number of shares you get as a key performance indicator.

I'm not sure if we are becoming a short-attention-span culture. Critics have been complaining that we are no longer able to pay attention the way our forebears did. But in the face of that, we see kids reading the very long "Harry Potter" series or playing games that have complex storylines. I do know that people have more opportunities to consume content than ever before. It was difficult to find something to read while standing in line for lunch.

That is the opportunity for snackable content: finding ways to slide your message inside these new moments that technology and media have created for us.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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Gary Stein

Gary Stein is SVP, strategy and planning in iCrossing's San Francisco office. He has been working in marketing for more than a decade. Gary lives in San Francisco with his family. Follow him on Twitter: @garyst3in. The opinions expressed in Gary's columns are his alone.

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