We have switched from a world of mass media to one where the masses are the media.

Millions of ad spend once focused on a limited number of channels at a fixed time now explodes into millions of channels; anytime, anywhere and each with an ever-diminished moving audience. 

Mass social communications, in this case tweets (in blue) and retweets (in yellow) facilitate massive relevant audiences. With a killer theme any content form can connect with audiences such as fans of Commander Hadfield, space travel and David Bowie

The consumer preference is now fast becoming more important than the publisher’s. Whole audiences are turning to on-demand services, search and sharing in order to curate personal schedules of content, making it clear that brands need to re-think the balance of the media they use in order to make connections. 

Katy Perry, with 34m Twitter followers, has a larger audience on her own than practically any primetime US TV show, bar the occasional major sporting event such as the Super Bowl.

This matters because a tweet from her can have enormous impact and set off a network effect of reach. But, of course, she’s not about to tweet your ads because they’re of no social value. 

If I tell you a bad joke you won’t tell anyone else because there is no social value in it for you. But if I tell you a good joke, you probably will repeat it. It’s this mechanic that we want to replicate if we want to be successful – and it doesn’t have to involve jokes.

As a Ted Talk so eloquently puts it, you are looking for 'ideas worth spreading'.

To reach audiences we have to think of our approach as like telling a good joke. Think about the consumer first, not in terms of demographics, but in terms of tapping into the themes that consumers actually want to engage with. These themes must match recipient audience motivations to share.

All consumers really care about is great content that is first and foremost relevant to them or their peers. If content makes you look good, useful or meaningful then content will be shared en masse.

That's true, regardless of where it comes from; so long as the source is authentic, trusted and easily found. 

Generate ideas and motivations worth spreading, because if you do it right, consumers can be your most potent distribution channel. 

Five tips to get the masses on your side:

  • Think of the killer themes and ideas that will connect with audiences, not product messages aimed at a demographic.

    This example from Ikea Australia connects with the average Australian family’s themes in a way that showcases real, day-to-day life, with the furnishings being the backdrop, rather than the main event.

 Ikea Teddy's Speech

  • Ask yourself, in all honesty if you received a particular message would you pass it on? Honda filmed a documentary-style video as a plea to help Hurricane Sandy victims who belonged to Staten Island Little League, long after the media attention had focussed elsewhere.

    It was an extension of the brand’s long term Little League sponsorship and aimed to raise money for all affected. The film struck just the right tone and was heartfelt rather than exploitative.

  • Don’t worry about where, when or how you communicate, just make sure it is good content and it can be found, shared and even imitated easily.

    The original Harlem Shake video sparked a fractal content war of replicas. It was very funny but, 26m views later, it also encouraged businesses across the globe to show an entertaining, human side to their employees and communications.

  • Make sure you provide simple tools to make it easy for people to share it if they want to. Nokia produced many non-stop animation films to signpost the easy ways to share animations on your phone.

    Simple buttoning or instructions to share work just as well.

  • Listen to the responses you get. If people don’t like what they hear change it, don’t turn up the volume and carry on regardless.

    Oreo’s response to a power cut during the Super Bowl is the best demonstration of how tens of thousands of shares can be generated by being responsive.

Oreo superbowl

Chris Gorell Barnes

Published 22 November, 2013 by Chris Gorell Barnes

Chris Gorell Barnes is CEO of Adjust Your Set and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can also follow him on Twitter

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Comments (1)


'TC' Teresa Clark

Hey Chris,

Great article and very informative and helpful. I completely agree that we have to come up with killer ideas and provide simple tools so people can share posts! Here is something that I do to create killer ideas for content and make it easy for people to share.

I engage people without making them feel as if they are being sold. Whenever we feel like we are being sold we head to what many call ‘the lizard brain.’ This makes people feel suspicious and responsible for watching for danger and confrontation. Instead we must get people into the buying part of their brains. If we are in buying mode we are more inclined to ask, for instance, “Does this come in my size? ” and stick to the salesperson eagerly. I call this part of my brain ‘my purring kitty.’

Thanks again for sharing,
'TC' Teresa Clark

over 4 years ago

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