About This Episode
The content creator market is booming. Before social media was the thing, there were about one to two million content creators online, but now that number has ballooned to four billion content creators on different platforms—it is a cutthroat industry. Everyone is competing to get their content in front of their audience.
So, in a highly populated market, how can we, as entrepreneurs, business owners, and solopreneurs, get our message out there and go viral?
That is what our guest for this episode of Brilliant Thoughts, a Success magazine podcast, specializes in. Brendan Kane and his team at Hook Point help brands, influencers, and celebrities reverse engineer how to make social media content go viral.
They have generated 60 billion views and 100+ million followers for the content they’ve worked on, and he shares what their research showed to help more content creators grow their brands and succeed on social media.
I’ve talked to Brendan before, and I felt like there was still more to unpack when it comes to social media and how businesses can succeed in getting the right content in front of the right audience as well as strengthening their brand and influence online. So, it was a great honor to have him back on this podcast.
Brendan shares the secrets he and his team have uncovered over years of research and analyzing data and insights from the best (and worst) influencers and content creators out there.
Understand the playing field.
The algorithm on different platforms is the one in charge of controlling the reach and distribution of content. No matter how much they want to put every piece of content out there in front of the right audience, the sheer volume of content generated every day requires algorithms to filter out what they prioritize in seeding to consumers.
All platforms’ primary objective is user retention: what content should we put at the forefront that will grab people’s attention and make them stay as long as possible on our platform?
The more time people spend on a platform, the more ads they can show, which means more profits for the platform. And like anyone running a business, we know it is important to make money in order to continue providing our products and services to consumers.
As content creators, you need to focus on two things: Does your content have a powerful, attention-grabbing, scroll-stopping, click-worthy hook? And is your storytelling compelling enough to keep your audience entertained as long as possible?
If you get those two right, you’ve hacked successfully into the algorithm. In order to win any game, you have got to know the rules and learn how to play them well.
Algorithms favor content with high click rates and watch times, and the more your content is put at the top, front, and center, the higher your chances of having that content go viral and reaching the right audience.
Retention is so important, in fact, that according to Brendan, “a six-second differential [in view time] represents an 85-million views difference” on TikTok videos of one content creator his team studied. That is how powerful increasing your attention and retention time is for hacking the algorithm and for social media success.
Learn how to tell a good story.
The secret to better retention is not whether you should create short-form or long-form content. The key lies in how to tell a good story.
In order to deliver your message properly, it is important to know the consumer behavior that is expected on different platforms. For example, if you plan to use TikTok as your main platform, know that the audience is trained to expect short videos with a quick payoff. YouTube has both traditional long-form videos and short videos. Instagram has reels and Facebook supports both longer videos and short stories.
But the sauce is really how well you deliver the story. Your hook should be powerful and attention-grabbing. For YouTube, what gets the clicks are the thumbnails and titles. In TikTok, it is the format and the first three seconds of your video.
What most influencers do right when it comes to storytelling is what Brendan calls the “Jenga theory,” which is to build and release tension at the right moments. The timing keeps your audience engaged with your content.
One observation Brendan saw over the years is that most businesses on social media still subscribe to the old thinking in content creation—before social media, it was common for marketers to make niche content that attracted the right audience.
Now, however, the game is different.
“Take your niche and make the general audience care about it,” Brendan says. How can we do that?
Think of how you can make people who have never thought about your subject matter expertise or found that topic interesting care about it.
He cited several examples of content creators who did this right. One was Graham Stephan and his video, "How I bought a Tesla for $78 Per Month”. Graham specializes in finance videos for millennials—a frankly unsexy topic. And yet, that video went viral because it hooked a wider, general audience, and his storytelling worked. He shared his expertise in an engaging way and shared the math (which is what most audiences wanted to know) eight minutes into the video.
The best way to bring in a wider audience for your small niche is by bringing in factors that attract the general population to your content. There are six main categories of how most audiences connect with a story:
- Feelings 30%
- Facts 25%
- Fun 20%
- Values 10%
- Reflection 10%
- Action 5%
If you can successfully incorporate these, or even just the 3F’s (Feelings, Facts, and Fun), which represents 75% of the general population) to your subject matter expertise, you can tell better stories and create engaging content that grabs attention and retains it.
“Play to the widest possible audience, but on a subtextual level, play to your core audience to get your point across,” Brendan advises. “It’s not really about the message, it’s more about the context around the message.”
This is supported by their research. Social media works, regardless of the industry you are in. All sectors, whether it is tax, finance, real estate, or whatever it may be, can go viral on social media. You just need to tell a compelling story that gets a wider audience hooked.
Learn from the greats… and the not-so-greats.
The best way to become a better storyteller is to find influencers who do a great job and learn the nuances behind what they are doing right, from format to background, the hook, the title, the voice and tonality, et cetera.
A lot of people jump on trends, but it can be an unreliable method to get your content out there and in front of the right audience. What we see today, in terms of trends and videos that go viral, is just the tip of the iceberg. What we can do is learn why the trend worked for the 1% and why the 99% who jumped on the trend but failed struggled.
You need a point of comparison to identify the different factors and nuances that make successful content creators succeed. It is also to look at an individual channel or creator’s high-performing and low-performing content.
This practice helps you be aware of the different communication patterns, and know what your patterns are, where the gaps need filling in, and how to play to your strengths and weaknesses.
It is a competitive landscape.
Your competitors, at least on social media, are not just your direct business competitors in the same industry—they are the 4 billion content creators fighting for space and visibility online.
Keep in mind that your audience is professional content consumers—they know just from the first three seconds whether a piece of content is something worth their time or not. Your hook is important. It is what gets the clicks. But it is even more important to focus on your content and storytelling because that is what reels them in and keeps them engaged.
Be niche-oriented but make it apply to a wider, more general audience, and keep them engaged. Simplify what is complicated, and make your message compelling and relatable. Incorporate Feelings, Facts, and Fun, and that is how you can win an unfair game.
Listen to the podcast to hear the more in-depth discussions and illustrations from Brendan.
What’s next for Brendan Kane, and where to follow him?
Brendan is now focusing on his project, Viral Trends. Join this weekly mastermind, to learn more about research, insights, trends, and nuances in social media content creation. Brendan and his team break down their study on one influencer or content creator account every week via a live Zoom call. They present their team’s research on analytics and insights and provide a 5- to 10-page PDF of the activation guide.
DISCLAIMER: The people interviewed are well-trained experts and highly skilled in their areas of practice. They take many safety precautions prior to attempting the activities described. The activities or research discussed in these podcasts should not be attempted without qualified supervision and training with professionals.