Did You Know “That Dress” Was the Perfect Modern Digital Media Story — and Was Filled With Important Lessons for Modern Writers?
I don’t know anyone who wasn’t pulled into casting a vote on “that dress” on Friday — from my hairdresser (who ran a poll in her salon) to my friend’s father-in-law who posted a silly meme on Facebook.
Every talk show was talking about “that dress.” Every media from the Daily Mail to CNN to Wired reported on it. Every social media site was filled with commentary.
But what interested me most is not the question: What color is that dress? But the question: Why is this story so riveting?
Then I read an article by the journalist Ben Fischer at the New York Business Journal, and I got an incredible 800-word lesson on what made this story so compelling — and how the viral flame was fanned.
This take-away is vital for freelance content writers today — because all of our clients are demanding content that grabs and holds people’s attention.
How will you meet this demand? One way is to pay attention to the four critical reasons “that dress” went crazy viral.
1. Great Content Needs Universal Appeal.
Content with the most universal appeal is storytelling. Today marketers are borrowing a page from novelists and are using more storytelling elements than ever before.
Mystery. Drama. Intrigue. By accident, “that dress” evoked many compelling story elements — the bride and her friends who couldn’t agree on the color of the dress for the mother-of-the-bride. We all jumped in to help save the day and figure out the mystery. Who could resist?
According to author Kate Forsyth:
“Stories are the common ground that allow people to connect, despite all our defenses and all our differences … a story only survives if it articulates some kind of desire or dilemma, some kind of predicament, which is of importance to both the reteller of the tale, and to his or her audience.”
2. Great Content Should Be Interactive.
You’ve likely heard the word “interactive” bandied about in the world of content marketing. The only problem is that many people are getting it wrong.
They assume it means merely reading content. It doesn’t. It means actually engaging with the content in a meaningful way. “That dress” story was all about interactivity.
“By definition, interactives engage viewers in a very active way – and that engagement can be incredibly powerful to marketers. People viewing interactives spend more time on the page, seeing a brand associated with content that interests them, all at their own pace.”
3. Great Content Should Be Easy to Consume.
The Five Tactics for Content Creators to Increase Consumption, according to the Content Marketing Institute are: a great headline, eye candy, formatting, SEO, and social engagement.
How many of these five tactics did “that dress” story have? (By the way, are you counting? That’s interactivity!)
“Humans are visual beings — it’s one of the traits that has kept our species going. Thus, it should come as no surprise that 90 percent of the information we take in is visual, and that we process images 60,000 times faster than text. Even more important for global audiences is that visual content often spans multiple languages, where text-based content may not.”
4. Great Content Evokes Emotion.
From frustration, to confusion, to humor, people got emotionally involved in “that dress” story. There is nothing more powerful than evoking emotion to make your content sing, and dance, and race around the internet.
Smart Insights reported on research that investigated why content goes viral:
“… emotional arousal was the single biggest factor in determining whether a campaign went viral. Articles that inspired, caused anger or awe-inspiring emotions, were all far more likely to end up on the ‘most emailed list’ on the site.”
So, the next time your client expects you to write content that gets results, remember the vital viral lessons learned from the story of “that dress” — and aim to write content that appeals universally, is interactive, is easy to consume, and evokes emotions.