Whether you are reading this in the office, at home, or while travelling, take a break and look around. Just about everyone is using a mobile device; and by now you should know that the term mobile device refers to both mobile phones and tablets.
You may ask: what are they doing? You will be surprised that half the time; many users are just chatting on social media or watching short videos on the web. In fact, some have developed an over-dependence syndrome. This obsession is ubiquitous.
According to the 2011 study, a user would be on social media 15 percent of the time. That means if a person spends 12 hours on their mobile device, two hours is spent on social media. In that year, the leading subject was news, at 24 percent.
Just a year later, in 2012, the tables had quickly turned. In that year, social media and games tied at 24 percent each. It means that people were now spending about one more hour per day on social media.
Interestingly, it is not like smartphone users suddenly decided to cut out the time spent on games, news, or other activities; they simply added one more hour to the time they spend on their phone. So, it moved from 12 to 13 hours.
The reason we are focusing on social media is because it is the best way to explain microcontent. As you will find out shortly, whenever people are on social media, all they do is post, like, share, and repeat.
What is Microcontent
Wikipedia offers two pretty straightforward definitions:
Definition 1 : “Microcontent refers to small groups of words that can be skimmed by a person to get a clear idea of the content of a webpage.” This category, therefore, includes article headlines, page titles, headlines, subject lines, and email headings.
Definition 2 : Microcontent refers to “small chunks of information that can stand alone or be used in a variety of contexts.” This category, therefore, includes RSS feeds, blog posts, and abstracts.
Jacob Nielsen was the first person to use the term microcontent. In 1998, Jacob was a usability adviser and he used the term microcontent to refer to short content such as headlines that are intended to hook readers. He also believed that a piece of content can only qualify as microcontent if it can still make sense when removed from its original context. He said: “microcontent should be an ultra-short abstract of its associated content”.
In short, microcontent has three basic characteristics:
2. Clear and punchy
3. Summarises the associated content
This automatically disqualifies most newspaper headlines that heavily feature intended pun, teasers, and wordplay.
You will come across several other definitions of microcontent. For example;
- Buzzsumo defines microcontent as “any type of public or published content delivered in bite-size quantity, while
- Other experts define it as content created natively for the platform it lives on with respect to nuances of usage and user behaviour.
These two definitions only stress the fact that microcontent should be short and easily inviting. If it goes viral, then it is good enough.
The most surprising thing about microcontent is not its origin; it is the sheer pace at which it has grown. For a word that was first used in 1998, you cannot imagine that microcontent is currently driving most online communications.
Let’s explore the four main reasons for this rapid growthPlaying the attention game
1. Playing the attention game
A Harvard Business School study answers everything you need to know about consumer attention in the digital age. In fact, they go as far as to compare attention to currency.
The paper says marketers should focus on, “how to ‘buy’ cheaper attention and how to use it more effectively”.
The Guardian stresses that: “The current generation of internet consumers live in a world of instant gratification and quick fixes which leads to loss of patience and deprives us of deep thinking.”
In a world where the competitor’s website is just a mouse-click away, failing to grab a consumer’s attention in a split second will severely hurt your online business.
Thankfully, this is where microcontent comes in. As we have seen, those catchy headlines and evocative social media updates are all microcontent. As brands continue to compete on these fronts, trying to outwit each other on Facebook and YouTube, they’re only aiding to the growth of microcontent.
2. It’s all gone social
It’s truly amazing how microcontent has been growing at an unprecedented pace. This is because of the way social media has revolutionised the world.
Let’s look at this infographic by Search Engine Journal, to get a good grasp of what we’re talking about. Keep in mind that this comes from a study performed in 2014.
Between 2012 and late 2013, Facebook users sparked from a mere 1 million to a staggering 1.15 billion. Similarly, other social media platforms such as Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram have also been picking up steam to epic proportions.
But the story hardly ends there. As social media attracts more people, more businesses have also been joining various platforms. By the start of 2014, at least 94 percent of marketers were using social media for business.
Google+ and Facebook are the most preferred by marketers. It was estimated that 70 percent of marketers had Google+ and Facebook social profiles at the beginning of 2014.
Perhaps we should check what these people do on social media. I doubt if it is all micro. When they are not updating their profiles, they are sharing content, liking something, commenting, or enjoying a video or listening to the latest audio clip. All this just brings us to one thing – microcontent.
3. Users share, share, and share
You also need to mention how social sharing and other forms of sharing have seen microcontent grow to huge proportions. Today, 99 percent of content is shared. And almost every website or blog has a “share” button.
Now consider this before focusing solely on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs growth: How often do people share their favourite videos on platforms such as Vine, Instagram, and YouTube? On Vine, for example, nine out of ten people will share a video they just watched with their friends.
This is how microcontent breeds. One person creates a short video, another person views it on the internet and shares it with friends, and immediately, the video goes viral. Check well and you’ll find that more than half of the videos that go viral are shorter than one minute.
4. Micro is easier to digest; here is why
Microcontent has “gone viral” because these short pieces of content are easy to digest. We’ve already talked about attention. It is said that the average digital consumer has an attention span of just eight seconds. Be smart. Don’t waste time creating long and detailed videos.
At this point, you should easily understand why microcontent is doing so well; because with microcontent, the user only needs a second or two to like what they are reading or watching.
If it’s a Twitter profile update, for example, how many seconds do you need to figure it out?
What about catchy headlines and email headers? RSS feeds are the same. The only time when you may spend more than five seconds on microcontent is when you’re watching a 15-second video. And, usually by the third minute, you’ll be looking at your competition through the rearview mirror.
So, What Qualifies as Micro?
We have already mentioned a wide range of content would qualify as microcontent. Now, let’s check them out. Allow me to provide a brief description for each – I’m even going to follow up with some ground-rules on how to excel in that area of microcontent just to get you motivated.
1. Short videos
Short videos are just that; very short clips that last a few seconds to a minute or two. In fact, for microcontent, a video that is longer than one minute might not work so well.
If you want your short videos to stand out, and go viral, then here are proven tips to follow.
- Make it short; shorter is sweeter, long is boring
- Reel in with a story; people like stories
- Make an emotional connection
- Make your videos easy to share
Remind me again: Note that these tips are taken from Social Mouths, one of the leading creators of viral videos. Countless brands go to these guys when they want to go viral on sites such as YouTube and Twitter.
Short audios are also cute. While videos are usually a lot more fun, if you can set out and do a good job on your audio clips, rest assured that you’ll get a lot of views.
2. Social media updates/posts
Social media updates are simply updates communicated via social channels. If you are a business and have a clearance sale coming up, you can let your consumers know about it by posting it as an update on social media.
- Use posts that develop relationships
- Invest in posts that boost credibility
- Invite conversation
- Comment on and share other people’s posts
Remind me again: These tips are drawn from Social Media Examiner.
Photos are excellent microcontent. Considering that digital consumers have a higher preference for photos compared to plain text, and that still images are easier for the brain to process, you will never get it wrong with a thrilling image. Not just thrilling; any image that evokes emotion is sure to succeed.
- Apply the rule of two-thirds for framing and composition
- Improve your lighting by getting the right white balance
- Stand out with a bold background and distinctive style
- Leverage unique camera angles to bring out the best of your photos
- Invest in a higher resolution point-and-shoot camera for classic photos
Remind me again: learn more of these on convinceandconvert.com.
Whenever you create a blog post or post an article on your website, ensure that headline stands out. Think about it this way: more than 80 percent of blog readers will click away if they are not convinced about the title. So, to get them to read, the bait lies in the headline. The same applies for email headers and all other headers in your digital marketing material.
- Keep it short and sweet
- Use interesting adjectives
- People are attracted to negative wording
- Use numbers
Remind me again: It’s all on Business 2 Community. Head there now to find out why your headlines are failing and what you can do to reverse the trend.
The term “Memes” read as meems, was first coined by Richard Dawkins in 1974. He likened meme to the biological gene which is a self-replicating unit of information. As such, the base concepts of art, religion, and politics, as well as trends, fads, and fashion, are all memes.
Here is what theconversation.com says about a meme;
“Every day, millions of people laugh at LOLcats, dog shaming, and music videos without music, while others mock injustice, support marriage equality, poke fun at NSA surveillance, or call out racism…central to the internet’s rising creative comment culture.”
- Keep your audience on top of your mind
- Pick a hot meme
- Take advantage of meme-generator platforms such as We know Memes and Meme Generator
- Bask in the glory; share and let others comment and share too
Remind me again: Read more on these tips on Inbound Now. Then, visit MemeCrunch.com to learn how to avoid Memejacking #fail.
A graphic is a visual representation of an object. Some actually define digital graphics as “anything you see on a computer other than text and sound.” Info-graphics are just an example of what digital marketers use to get the message across quickly. Graphics as memes are effective in grabbing readers’ attention.
- Find a way to relate your topic to everyday themes
- Use your graphics to inspire
- Ask for feedback
- Pick the most compelling data and lead with it.
Remind me again: Brafton.com discusses at least ten other useful tips when creating graphics for the purposes of marketing a business.
You’ve undoubtedly come across plenty of cartoons online, possibly liking and sharing them with friends. There are companies dedicated to creating cartoons that small businesses can use to market their businesses. Andertoons.com and Marketoonist.com are just two examples. But you can always try making your cartoons yourself.
- Harmonise contrast and balance
- Add detail without compromising simplicity
- Know how to jump from 2D to 3D
Remind me again: The Drawing Website provides a lot of information on how to make your cartoons a little more professional. Need a few tips? Head there now.
8. Animated GIFs
An animated GIF is a graphic image on a website that moves. There are many ways of designing animated gifs. You could have a banner that moves across the top of your website from right to left, containing specials for the day. Or, it could be a twirling icon. You get to choose. These gifs are an excellent way to grab readers’ attention. Here is how to make your animated GIFs:
- Fewer colours equal more fun
- Where necessary, use motion blur
- Drop duplicate frames
- Try starting your GIF videos
Remind me again: Check out how InvisionApp makes amazingly lovely animated gifs in just a few seconds.
Finally, you can’t mention microcontent without mentioning charts. Charts are more like graphs; in fact, you might have seen charts classified as a form of graphics representation elsewhere. We’re not discussing that today. The most important thing is to understand that you can always use charts to attract followers on the web and to get enormous attention. We have several tips from HubSpot for you.
- Stay away from 3D effects
- Include branded colours
- Keep off unnecessary styling
- Remove background lines
There are a handful of other items that others classify as microcontent but which we have not covered here. As long as it is short, sensible, and pleasant to the ears of your audience, we encourage you to use it to get more attention on the web, as you seek to stand out from the rest.
Tips for Creating Microcontent
Imagine what would happen if all web content was created the same? I mean, what fun would we get in visiting that place daily?
It takes creativity, a little time and the right data for microcontent to work for you. Your online success with images or videos, won’t happen overnight, nor will it come because you decided to share them on some specific occasion based one someone else’s tactic. It’s totally different for every brand.
1. Your audience
Every time you get down to create microcontent, think about whether your audience would like it. There are two ways of evaluating the suitability of your microcontent with relevance to your audience.
Testing is quite simple. Take two (or more) different formats of the same piece of content and post them simultaneously. Then see which one performs better.
You can also try it with different types of content. For example, other than comparing videos, you could compare a short video to a cartoon. See what works and stick with that until you prove otherwise.
Learn from the competition
Apart from testing your own content, you can also look over to see what your competitor is doing. This would work perfectly, especially if you’re just starting out. At this stage, you may not have all the resources for trial and error. So, snoop on your competition to see what they’re doing and then improve on it.
2. Your brand
The type of microcontent you use should also depend on your brand and the kind of business you do.
You will agree that some business types would be more suited to cartoons than others. And, although videos can work magic for any business, visual-centric niches such as home décor are more likely to benefit from such videos in the long run.
For more information, speak to a microcontent expert.
Five Tips for Great Microcontent
Tip #1: Images are your best friend
I couldn’t stress how important it is to have images as part of your microcontent activities. Images are easier to interpret and visually appealing; they are just nice. Did you actually know that often humans have to “complete the picture” on their own? Images are easier to “complete” in the mind. According to SEMRush, visual sensory is one of the most powerful sensory motivators in humans.
Tip #2: Have a way with words
Of course, you won’t be doing a lot of writing when it comes to things like Vine videos and Instagram photos, but content is king. Microcontent also involves micro-blogging and that’s where you need to have the knack of painting pictures with words.
The other reason you need videos and still images is because often, people don’t have a lot of time to read. If you could say it in one picture, then that would be much better. And, a whole page of content could easily fit into a 10-second video.
Tip #3: Keep posts short
When it comes to platforms such as Twitter, you might not have much of a choice – it’s 140 characters maximum. If you want to excel with microcontent, perhaps this Twitter limit should point you in the right direction. Even on Facebook and LinkedIn where you can have as many words as you like, longer posts usually don’t engage the audience very much. Instead, go for short, concise, and punchy content.
Tip #4: Get stackable
Getting stackable simply means finding a way to have your separate microcontent pieces playing off each other. For example, if people like you videos, why not create a series for them? It’s how humans in the digital era behave; they have shorter attention spans but also get into trends faster.
Tip #5: Build great content – around your audience
You can never mention this enough times. Anytime you think about content, always think about the consumer first. Who is the content intended for? Content, even if great, is meaningless unless it appeals to the audience. In fact, content can only be said to be great if the audience likes it.
Benefits of Microcontent
The rapid growth of microcontent alone should be enough to tell you that people love it. The biggest reason for this is that microcontent has become the way people communicate especially on social media.
1. Communicate and engage
Look at Facebook or Twitter. See what people are doing on Instagram and Vine. All the time, these people are typing short snippets of text, sharing pictures, and watching 10-second videos.
While microcontent might not be able to bring paying customers immediately, such moments will always make people want more. And, that’s exactly what you need.
You want to engage them; you want them to notice you. The best thing with micro-moments is that they spread like a virus. No wonder they easily go “viral.”
2. Increase visibility
If I like a video, I will share it with all my friends and encourage them to share it with their friends too. Before you know it, everyone will be watching that video. This makes microcontent an excellent tool when you’re seeking visibility.
If you’re a small business trying to break into the industry, make your videos go viral so that millions of potential customers will discover your business.
3. Stay on top of your consumers’ minds
Bigger brands also use microcontent to remain on top of the minds of their consumers. While digital consumers have a very short memory span, they also easily get addicted to things that they like. If they discover that they can always watch a variety of short, nice videos on your YouTube channel, then they will visit often.
4. Microcontent is simple
The other reason why microcontent is so effective is because it is easy to create. Creating short videos might need a little effort, yes. But a 10-second video; do you even need a professional to do that for you? More often than not, you should be able to accomplish this on your own, especially if yours is a small business.
5. Microcontent is cheaper
Being condensed content, microcontent is relatively inexpensive to create. For example, how much do you need to pay for a good blog headline? Or, how much would you pay for social media comments? Sometimes you need to put a little more effort in what you’re doing and the results can be enormous.
As you can see, microcontent is a highly effective marketing tool. Be smart. If you want to get ahead of the competition, then learn to harness the power of microcontent. In addition to being easy and inexpensive to create, microcontent is a great way to boost the growth of your small business.