What’s so funny about peace, love, and behavioral content?

Regardless of the platform, whether it’s a post on Facebook or Tumblr, we’re seeing a few trends across the content we’re creating that does more than present a message. When enough people like a post in a short amount of time, it appears on people’s phone lock screens as a trending post. Or posts that begin to take on vitality when they’re shared by over nine generations of people, which is something we’re seeing more and more often.

Among these examples, there are commonalities that bring the power of communities together in results that simply can’t be paid for.

We call it behavioral content and it’s not advertising – even though the budgets that cover it and the people who make it are those who have built their careers in advertising. But the question is, what’s the difference between advertising and behavioral content? How do you know if you’re creating an ad or creating content?

Brand Engagement

As an advertising term, brand engagement makes sense because the ad is something that reaches out on behalf of a brand to engage with an audience.

Behavioral content’s value is based on a fundamentally different premise: that the content is designed for a person to use in making a decision and/or engaging with another person – with the brand getting credit for that happening well.

The simple way to think about this is the pronoun. There is no “us,” or “we” in good content, only “I” or “You.” The disembodied “we” of a brand sticks out in content like someone looking for attention for no other reason than their own aggrandizing.

Feature / Benefit Structure

Just as a musician keeps track of the tempo in their head while playing, advertising writers have feature/benefit structure in the back of their minds as they create. In content, this way of saying, “Here’s a neat thing, and here’s why it matters to you” feels like a big warmup, and ultimately a waste of time when you have maybe two seconds to signal that you have content that can help someone in their feed. Good content is both the feature and benefit, which if done with the consumer in mind needs no introduction.

Speaking Directly

In advertising, you don’t have the time or space for specifics. A classic call to action in healthcare is, “Ask your doctor.” What’s so fantastic about content is you can, and must, be strikingly specific. In this case, create the infographic of ice breakers to open a conversation with your doctor.

Ask for the one question people always forget to ask and create a gallery featuring the best or most common ideas. Unlike advertising, people haven’t arrived at this community by accident. Give them content that’s practical to the purpose of your presence.