Wearable content: The X-factor that makes a social media plan soar


street art

Most of the value created on the social web every day is non-economic. Do your friends wile away their hours on Facebook to be more profitable? Probably not.

Individuals get the most benefit from participating in the social web for intangible, psychological reasons. The addictive nature of this place is born from a primal need for connection, storytelling, commiseration, and ego … not necessarily personal financial gain.

So let’s get our head around this fact and think about the implications in terms of marketing success. If most of the value creation on the social web is emotional and ego-driven, what does that mean for a social media strategy?

Wearable content

What if you thought of your content as a pair of jeans …

On the surface, all jeans are very similar. They are made from denim cloth, typically blue, and have two legs and a zipper. When some people buy jeans, they MIGHT be only concerned with the economic delivery system — How can I cover my bum for the least amount of money possible?

But most people DON’T think that way. They choose jeans that say something about them. There is some intangible emotional connection between them and their clothing, an unspoken pact. In fact, almost every decision we make in our lives, including what to wear, what to eat, and what to drive, reinforces a message we want to deliver about who we are.

favreFor example, Wrangler has been creating a series of commercials depicting American athletes wearing their jeans in settings that are masculine, fun, and “real.”  They don’t talk about the price, the strength of the zipper, or even where you can buy the product. In this case, they are selling an image to a group of men, and perhaps women who buy for men, that reinforces idealized views of the all-American male.

Emotion and content that moves

People also make content choices based on what it says about them.

Power on the web comes from the ability to create content that moves. And it is really, really, really hard to get people to move your content. In fact, about 2 percent of the people who read this blog post will tweet or post it. That’s about the average for most blogs.

If you are one of the spectacular few who tweet or post this article to your audience, it is most likely because what I wrote today has created an emotional or intellectual connection with you that is consistent with how you see yourself.

When you share this post, it is creating some little statement about you, just like your choice in jeans, car, or soft drink. It says, I concur. I am aligned. I think this article is smart and I am smart therefor, I will share it. This article is cutting edge and I am cutting edge, so I will share it. This article is cool and I am cool, so I will share it.

Consuming and sharing content creates an emotional benefit, not a financial one. Doesn’t this present a huge obstacle to success for companies trying to create a financial benefit to themselves through their content instead of an emotional benefit to their readers? Doesn’t this completely turn our view upside-down of what content should accomplish?

How do we get people to “wear” our content like their favorite pair of jeans?

Illustration: New York City Street art. It made me feel cool to share it : )  

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  • Nice thought provoking article Mark. By sharing content, either our own or that of others, are we not trying to raise our profile within a certain field. I think by sharing content you are ‘buying in’ to that authors opinion or views and reflecting that choice to others.
    I think for brands, gaining a status of an ‘influencer’ and a trusted source of expert information is a way to indirectly attract visitors, to either the corporate site or to pick up a phone/write an email, which could then lead to the financial gains.

    Being social needs to be about doing it for reasons other than financial gain, otherwise people will see through it and stop listening 🙂

  • Christine Webber

    You are so right about the emotional ‘buy in’. I would also add that it is about usable content and that means giving out information for free. Keeping things short and simple does it for me.

    Humour as an emotional buy in is something that hooks me ever time as it always has a greater impact on our learning.
    Have a great week 🙂

  • … or at least APPEAR to do it for something other than financial gain : )

    Thanks Barry!

  • All exceptional points Christine.

  • billy delaney

    Again, you see clearer and farther than most. For me, clothing that I choose now is associated with what I wore as a kid. Would that mean that, in the near future, social media people will turn back to the social media connections that got them interested in the medium in the first place?

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  • Gordon Diver

    Emotionally, I’m aligned with the nice analogy Mark. Spot on.

  • Emotion is definitely how you connect with people and yeah, I try to use humor, too. Wearing content is an interesting way to put it.

  • I think there is something to that Billy. And I’m proud to be your bell bottom jeans blogger 🙂

  • Ha! Thanks Gordon!

  • Thanks for commenting Pauline!

  • LoriGama1

    Yes, but… ultimately, the emotional connection in the first place, leads to financial benefits, sometimes. If a brand connects with their tribe on an emotional level (through content), then the money naturally follows. (The tribe buys the product or service.) There is no need to literally say: “buy my stuff”. Now, it’s all in the WAY you say it. That’s why info-tainment type commercials on TV do much better than the old-fashioned kind. That’s why content is so important. That’s why the people who curate the content are so important and so few in numbers. The medium is the message, as Marshall McLuhan, so prophetically stated decades ago. But the message won’t get anywhere without the curators/the Influentials who share it with their tribes.

  • Superb points Lori and that is certainly what I am counting on : )

  • LoriGama1


  • billy delaney

    Howdya know about those bell bottom jeans?… Guess I just have to keep coming back for more now.

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  • Hi Mark. I totally agree that emotional connection drives decisions and loyalty that can extend beyond rational attributes. One niche within creating “wearable” content is creating content that solves problems for your audience and their own group of friends. This gives people an easy conversation starter to share such as “Check out this cool new way to do X” or “I just tried out this new way to do X, check it out!”

  • Nice contribution to the discussion Adella. Thank you!

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  • I love tight jeans, wonder if I should slim down my content.

    Really love how you write and pull ideas from alternate perspectives, nice job once again Mark!

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