Polarization. It is an oft discussed concept in regards to today’s culture, and while there are many issues that bear responsibility for the polarization social media seems to be at the forefront of every accusation. While this probably is not the whole truth, I think we can all admit it is at least believable.
The NewsFeed of Facebook or Twitter Feed is a war zone of ideas and beliefs. So, why does social media seem too so easily bend to will of the most extreme language, ideas, and values?
The answer: Attention.
Here’s the truth: Attention is still the only thing that matters on the Internet. It is as true today as it was when Gary Vaynerchuck said it in 2016 — perhaps even more so. There is so much noise on the Internet that it is becoming increasingly difficult to be noticed. The answer? Certain organizations push the limits of their content to be more sensationalist, more polarized.
Let’s assess. Say you asked me, as a marketer, which headline I think will perform better between:
(1) “Watch Ted Dismantle Leftist Arguments!”
(2) “Ted uses logic and reasoning to defend his ideas”
I would recommend (1). It wins… hands down. The issue is, of course, not all organizations want to be sensationalist. In fact, most don’t, and there lies the dilemma for a marketer:
Nonprofits want the results of (1) with the message from (2).
Well, you cannot have your cake and eat it too. If your nonprofit wants to compete digitally — and I assure you it does — then it is going to need to get some attention. Now, this doesn’t mean every organization needs to become as sensationalist as possible (but that is how it feels at times), but it does mean that you have to compete with those organizations that ARE willing to be as sensationalist as possible. Luckily, there is more than one way to cut through the noise and get some attention.
Break The Cycle
According to Made To Stick, “The most basic way to get someone’s attention is this: Break a pattern.” The nonprofit answer to not being sensationalist, yet still getting attention is to not be boring. Nonprofits, on the whole, are boring. They don’t do well at storytelling and narrative. They choose bland design elements, and try not to invest in marketing. This all comes at a cost: not being noticed. Good design and marketing will break the pattern and get your organization the attention it deserves.
Developing a personality for your brand, or investing in a personality to represent your brand is another way to get attention. The Internet has always praised authenticity, which was always sort of a buzzword, but in this instance it is true. By adding a personal narrative to communications a nonprofit can connect in a way that cuts through the noise.
Take The Time
OK, this is kind of a weird one, but it works. If your marketing is pretty good and you feel like you have a good narrative, then sometimes it just takes time. Keep at it. The vast majority of brand success stories are not delivered with innovation, great ideas, or perfect execution -- often it is just doing the most right thing over and over again for a long period of time. Sure, your audiences may grow slowly, but the truth is they will also probably be very engaged. Five years later, and you have a large, highly engaged audience you can do something with. It may not be the most sexy answer to the problem, but I have seen it work time and time again.
In sum, you don’t have to have sensationalist content, but if you choose to not go that route then you’d better have a really good strategy. It is going to be hard to cut through all of the noise. So, invest in a good marketing team (or reach out to Him + Her Digital Co.) and start crafting the narrative and strategy you need to best represent your brand and get it the attention it deserves.