A group of reptilian overlords is controlling the world through underground dealing and cloaking technology. Able to take on human form, they manipulate the trajectory of human events through political assuaging. They may also enjoy eating pizza in sewers and train in martial arts.
At least, this is the scenario many prevailing Reptilian theories on the subject would assert. You’re first reaction to this may be that it is absurd. You wouldn’t be wrong. But why is it that such absurd, outlandish conspiracies gain traction and dedicated followings. This is the type of virality and loyalty for which most marketing managers would clamor.
Although quirky and unviable, there are key lessons to be taken away from these internet treasure troves of conspiracy theories. Without further ado, here’s what you need to know.
Almost all of these theories are beyond what normal logic would allow as a feasible explanation of the world around us. As such, when confronted with these explanations, people can go through a plethora of mental what-ifs. What if this is the truth and everything else is a lie? If this is true, what else could I be wrong about? What if there is a reason I came across this information?
The preponderance of uncertainty about the theory opens a rabbit hole through which one can dive into uncharted territory. And the experience of this discovery itself holds value. People do not share information that is presumed to be commonly known. People share what they feel could be potentially enlightening. Furthermore, people share what they feel ownership over.
After diving into a chasm and developing an understanding, a bond attaches the conspirator and the conspiracy. Intermingling those identities empowers the individual to go and share the truth.
For social media marketing, the same holds true. Though bombarding the general public with constant advertising can raise brand awareness, nobody feels inclined to share information everyone already has. By targeting select individuals and guiding them through understanding the value of whatever is being offered, you align them with promoting the brand. Folks like being the person who contributes to a conversation. They do not like redundancy.
One of the common traits shared by most conspiracy theories is that they offer an explanation for the unknown and misunderstood. Our world is odd. Many events, tragic and fortuitous alike, occur with any plausible reasoning lacking. Rather than accept that some things just happen, people would rather grab onto something, anything that claims to have an answer. Enter lizard people. Or chemtrails. Or any conspiracy.
Social media ads only have brief windows to secure attention. The few seconds before a user can skip an ad on a video or the rolling sidebar of flashing ads, do not afford much time to convey all value associated with an offering. Therefore, pull people in with intrigue. Chick-Fil-A has recently gone viral after someone discovered that their food boxes can be placed securely on a drink lid with the straw as an anchor. This honestly offers such little value, it would hardly be worth mentioning. But for consumers who wondered what that hole was for and already were familiar with the traditional values of the brand, this was enlightening. If you only have a sparse window for attention, fill it with unknown or misunderstood value about your offering. The learning aspect invites the deep dive. If all other competitors are fighting along the same lines, look for the gaps in value communication.
The final thing conspiracies get right is the build-up. Most lizard people sights do not start by positing that everyone you know is a reptilian. They start with the premise that lizards exist and people exist and maybe lizard people exist. And as the user seeks more information, the more absurd aspects reveal themselves in corresponding nature.
While we’ve highlighted why it is beneficial to lead with the unknown, it is important to avoid ambushing the consumer. A little intrigue is good. A wall of everything is not. The value of a slow build is two-fold. First, it allows the deep diver time to acclimate to all the new information without being immediately overwhelmed. This is a process and in order to effectively communicate your value, steps cannot be skipped. Second, the slow build offers extended duration. An idea that sits with a user has better retention than a flash bulb that dissipates as quickly as it appeared.
While none of these concepts are groundbreaking by themselves, the successful implementation has eluded many traditional marketing campaigns. We are in strange times, and often the best practitioners of an art are not who one would normally expect. While this Op-Ed explored some of the value associated with conspiracy theories, please be sure to check out our other content for other takes on social media marketing topics.
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