The Public Relations Strategist

Generation on the Go: Creating Branded Content for a Sharing Culture

October 22, 2013

Marketers and PR professionals worldwide are embracing branded content to promote products and services, generate sales leads, establish thought leadership and build brand awareness. Marketers are realizing that print ads, TV commercials and banner ads aren’t enough anymore. Branded content offers a deeper, more meaningful experience for information-hungry consumers.

But creating engaging content for compelling websites, Facebook pages, e-newsletters and white papers is just part of the equation. Today’s content also needs to be shareable and mobile if you want to connect with on-the-go customers, who rely on smartphones and tablets to stay in touch with their friends and coworkers around the clock.

According to Forrester Research, mobile is driving a “second Internet revolution.” Its 2013 study, called Mobile Trends for Marketers, states that there are more than 1 billion smartphones in consumers’ pockets, 150 million tablets and an estimated 1 million available apps. By 2017, Forrester forecasts that more than 900 million tablets and 3 billion smartphones will be in people’s hands worldwide.

However, the revolution isn’t restricted to smartphones and tablets. Mobile technology is becoming ubiquitous. It goes wherever we’re going, and the screens in our lives are often already there when we arrive. Touchscreen content is readily available whether we’re in our cars or on a boat or a bike.

Mobile devices are replacing telephones, calculators, watches, cameras, maps, gift cards, boarding passes, movie tickets, stereo systems and TVs. In time, smartphones will become our wallets, too, when mobile payment systems start to use alternative currency, such as bitcoin, and real currency such as the MintChip in Canada.

Aside from taking photos or playing our favorite tunes, mobile devices allow people to continuously graze on information throughout the day. They have become so enmeshed in our daily lives that the average U.S. adult now spends more than 10 hours a day consuming content, according to the market research firm Ipsos.

What’s driving this around-the-clock use of mobile technology? The answer lies in our sharing culture.

People share content for many reasons. For many of us, sharing content is an extension of our identity — we define our public persona by the content we choose to share, and we use branded content to maintain our network of relationships. We use our networks to obtain new content, which can then be used to nurture existing relationships or establish new ones. And throughout all of this sharing, mobile technology often serves as the means to distribute and receive the content.

Sharing content plays a critical role in how we digest information and make decisions. According to a recent study by the New York Times Consumer Interest Group, people remember information, brands and products better when they share them with others. In other words, sharing information helps us do our jobs better, study better, parent better, maintain our homes better and play better.

With platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Foursquare, Instagram and Pinterest, people are sharing more content, more often, with more people, more quickly than ever before. Mobile communication allows consumers to share content, like photos of an incredible meal at a hot new restaurant, in real-time, capturing the excitement of the moment. There isn’t anymore waiting to get to a computer.

For brands to insert themselves into the shareable culture that the mobile revolution created, they need to realize that it’s not about the devices — there will always be a new gadget around the corner. Instead, brands should focus on creating shareable and mobile-friendly content, regardless of the device, whether it’s a laptop being used in an airport or a smartphone at a concert.

Your customers don’t want to click through a clunky website to find your company’s nearest retail location. That information should be available with just one tap. Customers want to watch your company’s latest how-to video to better understand the product they’ve just purchased. They expect, in the case of the major airlines, for example, a free app that allows them to check on the status of their flight while traveling.

These new, shareable content expectations include another important factor: Customers want to participate in the creation of the content. Mobile devices are not static receivers. By its very nature, mobile technology encourages the sharing of information in the moment. People can instantly create their own content, from product reviews (restaurants, concerts, beer) to photo slideshows and videos that showcase your brand as part of their experience.

Ask yourself this: Is your organization prepared to let go of the tightly controlled management of your brand and let your fans put their perspective on your product or service? Is your company open to serving as a catalyst, championing and promoting customer-created content to other customers?

Making your content more shareable with mobile

How can you make your branded content more shareable for today’s mobile-driven world? Here are a few tips to begin:

  • Think about email. The fact is, email still reigns supreme, despite the ubiquitous presence of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and text messages. According to Nielsen, reading and sending emails is “the most popular activity on the mobile Web, accounting for two out of every five user minutes.” First, branded content should be email-friendly, and email should be mobile-friendly.

    Second, invest in building and maintaining opt-in email lists and use shareable content as an opportunity to collect addresses.
  • Make it sticky. We’re suckers for a good headline. Whether it’s the subhead for a news release or email subject line, headlines that demonstrate urgency and relevancy grab us. But don’t stop there. Your content — the copy as well as video and photos — needs to be just as memorable. 
  • Make it easy to do a job or task. Many mobile users turn to smartphones and tablets to perform small jobs and tasks. Users seek apps to count calories or to measure the performance of a run through their neighborhood. Is there a task or a job that your brand can own, for which it should create a downloadable app?
  • Tap into customer passions. People share content that they personally identify with. Fishermen share photos of big fish. Downhill skiers share video of awesome powder runs. Craft-beer aficionados share photos of cool new beers they’ve discovered. Foodies share photos of incredible meals from trendy restaurants. What fuels the passions of your brand’s fans?
  • Keep it in context. If you want to attract buyers, then you’ll need to create content that a potential customer can share with friends to get a second opinion. If you want to keep your brand’s fans excited and engaged, then you may want to create fun, entertaining content that they can share with other like-minded people.

    Don’t assume all content appeals to all audiences. Tailor your branded content to perform a specific job. Connect with your target audiences and their relationship with your brand at this moment.
  • Make it safe. People fear sharing content with their trusted network of friends and co-workers that may transmit viruses or be linked to a scam. People don’t want to be known for sharing untrustworthy or lame content.

    Invest in high-quality design to distinguish your trusted content from that of scam artists and competitors who are not tuned into the needs of today’s shareable content generation.


Stephen Dupont, APR

Stephen Dupont, APR, is vice president of public relations and branded content for Pocket Hercules (, a brand-marketing firm based in Minneapolis. He blogs at Contact him at


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