What’s the magic number I hear you ask? For today’s purposes, we are going to say five. Five is the magic number. Why do numbered posts work so well?
Companies like Buzzfeed have built an international empire out of it. Particularly on their social feed. Think Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube. Numbered blog or vlog posts just work exceptionally well, triggering shares and opportunities to go viral.
It’s the nature of social and the way we read, watch and view content today. Though hungry for actual facts, cat pictures, and memes, we like to have it concise. Nobody has time to read full-length articles anymore- otherwise, we would buy a newspaper.
And it ain’t all junk.
Buzzfeed is the perfect case in point. This behemoth exploded onto the scene in 2006, as an internet media company with the intent to focus on viral digital content. It has since set the tone for the future of digital media. They have an incredibly smart business model: give the people what they want.
Much like the tenets of inbound marketing, their approach is to treat people like human beings and create content specifically for them. Content that appeals, creates joy and captivates delight. The numbers are fantastic:
They generate more than 6 billion views per month
More than 200M monthly unique visitors to BuzzFeed.com
More than 70 percent of BuzzFeed traffic occurs on mobile devices
75 percent of unique visitors come from social platforms
So what does this tell us? It shows the power of social for one, but also, it tells of just how much digital consumers love a numbered post. Whether in the form of a blog piece, actual straight up list or a video: we go nuts for numbers. What’s more, we see such value in them that we love to share them.
If that’s not convincing you to start numbering up right now, here are the top 5 reasons you should be creating numbered content for your customers:
There's a little cognitive trick in the title of numbered articles, which implies something is true. Let's take an example blog title of ‘5 reasons spoons are better than forks’. The title makes the sneaky assumption that spoons are indeed better than forks. Even if you find yourself skeptical of one of the reasons, the implicit fact spoons are better than forks is still being drilled in your brain as something that should be believed. Let’s face it, you can shovel more volume per cubic centimetre onto a spoon than you can with a fork. Thus ensuring greater portion and food delivery into one’s mouth. Incidentally, you can eat almost anything with a spoon, but you can’t eat soup with a fork. The spoon is better than the fork.
2. We Are Time Poor
We are lazy and we are busy. With a premeditated number, we know exactly what we are getting. We like to know how long it’s going to take to read something- a numbered list is a handy barometer. The number can be arbitrary, but you know you have time to look at a list that has only 5 items on it while you are on the bus, say, or while waiting for a coffee. Your mind can instantly make a snap decision on how worthy that content will be for your time frame. The way we take on information has changed- we ingest so much of it on a daily basis thanks to social and digital media. We are the tweet generation, say it sharp and say it swift or we ain’t biting. Time is money, information is cheap and we are all of us, processing at a rate of knots. I don’t know about you, but as the famous social media viral meme says: “ain’t nobody got time for that!”
3. Value For Click Mentality
Leading on from the above point - because we are time poor, we want to use our time as efficiently as possible. So the question gets asked; what’s in it for me? What do I learn, or get, or achieve if I click on this blog post? Numbered blogs make it easy to quantify the content of the blog post. They can allow for easy one-upmanship. If your blog has a higher number of “points”, by definition a reader knows that it already has more content than a competing blog with lower points. Therefore, making it a potentially more valuable read.
4. Humans Like Things to be Tidy
Then there’s just the fact that humans like things to be ordered and tidy. We all have a natural inclination to try to make sense of the world. Putting things into categories helps with that. Numbered and ordered lists appeal to that instinct to order the world.
There’s also a lot to be said for the psychology of numbers. There are many cultures that place value on a specific number. Western fairy tales, for example, place special importance on the numbers 7 and 3. In Chinese culture, the number 4 is considered unlucky because it sounds similar to the word “death".
We’re a weirdly funny bunch, us humans. Individual quirks and cultural norms do come into it. But so does the collective human need for things to fit parameters and brackets we are not even aware of.
5. We’re Suckers for Click Bait
Homo sapiens are suckers for sensationalised click bait titles. 'Click here to see the top 16 reasons the Kardashian’s have built an empire on ridiculous things’. Why would you not click on that, seriously. That’s why newspapers and gossip rags had been doing a roaring trade. Through fear mongering, catchy titles and outrageous innuendo.
Click bait is merely a more (arguably) sophisticated version of this.
“5 Borderline Evil Office Pranks"? Yes, please!
Click bait can be dodgy in terms of quality and a dumbing down of your message, but only if you don’t play it right. You can create a captivating title and graphic to match - that is funny and enticing. Just make sure your real message is in there and that it is still valuable to your consumer. That’s the golden ticket of the content marketing world- valuable, shareable content.
So, there you have it. 5 top reasons why numbered content works. Still yet to be convinced? Remember that next time you find yourself drifting off at work, clicking furtively on lists. Chances are it’s from your social media feed and that it’s entirely relevant or personal to you at that moment in time. I bet you're sharing it as we speak. Look out for our next post, “5 reasons why you need to stop what you are doing right now….”