Many brands are scared of tackling highly technical content in their marketing, even when those topics are completely relative to their audience. It’s not that they can’t write about them. In fact, they are probably the last word in their industry on some of those topics. They’re simply worried that technical content won’t get noticed or go viral.
But this just isn’t true. You absolutely can discuss complex topics in a way that makes them highly shareable. It’s just a matter of knowing how to connect meaningfully with your audience.
Unsure how to get started? Here are seven examples of viral content from brands and publishers who understand how to make complex content shareable.
The Math Behind Social Distancing [The Visual Capitalist]
Social distancing has become synonymous with the coronavirus pandemic. The theory behind it is straightforward: The fewer people we come into contact with, the less chance the virus has to spread. What’s harder to get our heads around is just how effective this strategy is.
Written by Marcus Lu at the Visual Capitalist, this article and the accompanying infographic do an exceptional job of explaining just how powerful the compounding effect of social distancing are. Lu also explains how the calculations, taken from Signer Laboratory, were used and how they were created.
It’s the use of visuals that elevates this piece of content. Before the reader even gets to the text, there’s a clear and well-designed infographic that summarizes all of the information. This makes digesting the math below a lot easier — so much so that the article has been passed round and round social media. At the time of writing, Lu’s piece had garnered more than 1,500 shares on Twitter and almost 40,000 on Facebook.
Takeaway: Use graphics to get your message across when words alone won’t cut it.
Bamboo Transcends the Tropics for Carbon-Negative Construction [Redshift]
We don’t tend to think a lot about building materials. It might be surprising to learn, then, that an article about bamboo construction techniques has been shared more than 140,000 times on Facebook.
That’s until you read architectural journalist Zach Mortice’s article on Redshift, in which he does a great job of explaining complex architectural techniques in lay terms. He turns a complex topic into a much more alluring one by connecting it with a cause that everyone can get behind: reducing our environmental impact.
That doesn’t mean Mortice skimps on the details. For those who are as interested in the engineering features as much as the cause, he clearly explains how prototype bamboo milling can help bring bamboo to Western construction practices. There are also several examples of these techniques in action and an outline of what the industry plans to do next.
In other words, Mortice positions the piece brilliantly for maximum exposure, without selling short the people who will get the most value from it.
Takeaway: Find an angle that connects with a cause to get wider attention, but don’t neglect your core audience.
The Repo Market, Explained — and Why the Fed Keeps Pumping Hundreds of Billions Into It [Bankrate]
The American repo market isn’t a popular topic of dinner table conversation, yet reporter Sarah Foster’s Bankrate explainer on it has earned 1,000-plus shares since it was published at the end of January 2020.
Foster does an excellent job of carefully explaining what the repo market is, why it is in the news lately and why it matters to the readers of Bankrate (and, crucially, to their personal finances). The latter part is the key to the article’s success.
If Foster had just explained the financial instruments behind a current affairs story, this piece wouldn’t have gotten the love it did. It’s because she took a piece of economic esoterica and made it relevant to Bankrate’s readers that it proved so popular.
Takeaway: When something relevant to your audience is making news, show them how their concerns connect to the bigger picture.
Machine Learning 101 – Whiteboard Friday [Moz]
Machine learning isn’t an easy topic to explain in conversational terms. In one video, however, Moz’s Britney Muller provides a clear and concise account of what machine learning is and how it works.
She then gives the Moz audience exactly what they want: step-by-step instructions on how to use machine learning in SEO. These are massive takeaways for viewers and one of the main reasons it has been shared so much (more than 1600 shares at the time of writing).
The delivery of the content is also fantastic. It helps that Muller is clearly passionate about the subject. But the use of the whiteboard both in the video and in the transcription makes the content especially easy to digest.
Unlike a lot of blog posts transcribed from videos, this one is just as easy to consume as the video itself. That means readers have a genuine choice. They can choose to watch the video, read the blog post or do both. Either way, they get huge amounts of useful information on a complex topic.
Takeaway: Video can make complex topics easier to understand.
The History of the URL [Cloudflare]
In March 2020, Cloudflare’s Zack Bloom published a hugely detailed history of the URL that has been shared more than 2,500 times on social media.
Crucially, Bloom devotes the words needed to do the topic justice. Coming in at more than 6,500 words, it is the longest article in this list.
If Cloudflare weren’t a specialist blog, such a word count on such a topic might not work. But it’s because the topic-audience alignment is so strong that this article works — and why it has been so widely shared.
In other words, it doesn’t matter if your topic is complex and your article is long if your audience is interested in it. If you try to condense such conversations, you could be doing yourself and your audiences a disservice. When people are interested in what you have to say, they’re happy to spend a half hour reading your article. If it is worth their time, they’ll spend time sharing it, too.
Takeaway: Go deep and go long on complex topics to give them the attention they deserve.
What is the Paycheck Protection Program? [Bench]
If you’re running a U.S. business, the Payment Protection Program is a crucial piece of legislation at the moment. But it’s also not easy to get your head around. Naturally, many business owners turn to their accountants for advice.
And online bookkeeping service Bench met this demand with one very comprehensive piece of content. The piece’s author, Owen Yin, combined succinct, informed writing with a clear and structured layout to bring clarity to this murky topic. There’s a lot to digest in this piece, so Yin made it easily scannable with a table of contents and bulleted lists to help readers find exactly what they need.
Given that the article was shared almost 4,000 times on Facebook, we think it’s fair to say it was pretty helpful, too.
Takeaway: Use menus, headings and other formatting features to make longer content as browsable as possible.
How to Make Sense of Quantum Physics [Nautilus]
We end this list by looking at the most complex topic of the lot: quantum physics.
As authors Sabine Hossenfelder and Tim Palmer note in the introduction, quantum physics is considered “infamously difficult to understand.” Two sentences later, however, the authors have turned that proposition on its head.
It’s quite easy to understand quantum physics, they argue. It’s just that physicists no longer use the only method that makes sense.
Herein lies the secret to why this 3000-word article has been shared more than 5,500 times on social media. It takes a commonly held belief and dismantles it. Add a touch of intrigue that hooks the reader in, and even the most complex topics become easily readable.
Takeaway: Hook the reader, then make good on your promise to give them the information they’re looking for.
If you are marketing in a technical industry, you don’t have to avoid complex subjects for your marketing to gain traction. Using any of the seven tactics we’ve explored above, and you’ll be able to successfully tackle your industry’s most complex issues in a way that makes them engaging and share-worthy.