There’s more to meeting audience needs than providing the right information. Medill on Media Engagement (by Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism) organizes content creation around a core question: What kind of experience does your content provide? Through their study of media engagement, Medill scholars have classified dozens of content “experiences” and determined which promote readership – and which discourage it.
Experiences offer a powerful way to conceptualize a brand’s tone and voice. In addition to thinking “What does my audience need to know?”, experiences encourage us to ask “What should having their questions answered feel like?” Perhaps you want your audience to feel smarter, empowered, inspired, enlightened, clever, elite or transported. And certainly you want to avoid making them feel overwhelmed, manipulated or bored. Identifying and describing your ideal user experiences can greatly influence content creation.
Thinking in terms of experiences helps to prevent the folly of assuming your posts are successful because they provide all the right information. It encourages you to address how your audience should feel while reading it.
MIT’s Global Education team, a part of GECD, provides a good current example. We created the Twitter handle @MITglobal with the goal of sharing information about the wide range of opportunities our students have to go abroad. But we also want to deliver what Medill calls the “Makes Me Feel Smarter” experience by providing international context to MIT life. So we try to highlight global initiatives from across the Institute and even share bits of news and culture from around the world. When the Guardian reports on MIT’s Civic Data Design Lab and their contributions to mapping informal public transit in Nairobi, we want to be tweeting about it. That way we can help showcase the many international applications of MIT research and talent.
Our Facebook page, on the other hand, seeks to tap more into an “Identity” experience, connecting students for whom international adventure is a key, transformative part of their MIT narrative. International opportunities are often highlighted through the lens of student stories. This past IAP, for example, study abroad participants were encouraged to share photos documenting their global voyages using the hashtag #iapglobal. Those photos are now collected in a Facebook album and as an article on Storify.
There is plenty of overlap between providing global context and celebrating global narratives, but the subtle differences of the two platforms’ strategies are informed by the articulation of these different experiences.
When considering user needs and strategic goals, it’s worth remembering that emotional concerns are also a crucial component to content strategy. To keep social media social, build your content around the feeling you want your brand to provide.