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Everyone wants their content to go viral. After all, you spent a lot of time and effort working on it and now it’s time to show it off to the world and reap the benefits of your hard work.
So when you publish a new post on your blog and share it on social, it can be a punch in the guts when no one likes, comments, or shares your stuff. Not to mention the fact having Twitter and Facebook accounts that look like graveyards is a little embarrassing.
Creating a successful post that takes on a life of its own involves a mix of incredible content, serious promotional skills, and a responsive audience.
While you can control the first two, there’s an art and science to fostering the kind of reaction you want from your audience. This requires two things: satisfying the psychological urges that compel a person to share, and checking all the boxes for the more tangible elements of a page that make it look shareable (i.e. great headlines, visuals, and social share buttons).
In this article, I’ll discuss how you can use these factors to encourage more content shares on your blog.
What Makes Someone Want to Share Your Content?
First, let’s delve into why people want to share your content. A big reason behind why we share what we share comes down to psychology.
1. People Want to Feel Happy
People are far more likely to share positive content than negative content. According to social media scientist Dan Zarella, nobody like a Debbie Downer. After analyzing 100,000 social accounts, he found negative remarks led to fewer followers. Negative comments included things like sadness, aggression, negative emotions and feelings, and morbid comments.
2. People Want to Feel Inspired, Surprised, Amused & Amazed
People also like to share content that inspire awe. Internet marketer Noah Kagan has further research to back this up – he mapped the top 10,000 most shared articles across the web to an emotion, including amusements, awe, and sadness. The top 3 emotions linked to the most shared articles were: awe (25%), laughter (17%) and amusement (15%).
3. People Want to Enrich the Lives of the People They Care About
Nine in 10 people share content online to help someone have a positive experience (or avoid a negative one), and nearly as many (89%) share to help others save money.
The New York Times Consumer Insight Group has collected some of the most definitive proof of the motivations behind why people share online. The group conducted in-person interviews, hosted a one-week sharing panel, and surveyed 2,500 heavy online sharers as part of its research.
It found the primary motivation behind why people share content is to improve the lives of those we care about, with 94% of respondents saying they “consider the value and utility that the information they share will have for the recipient(s)”.
4. People Want to Define Themselves
The New York Times researchers also found that 68% of people share to define themselves both to others and to themselves, and often sharing helps them “cultivate an idealized online persona.”
Further, the study found that sharing was founded on a strong desire for validation. For many respondents, sharing content was very much about anticipating and enjoying the response. One respondent commented that sharing without receiving feedback was like “giving a speech where no one claps.”
5. People Want to Grow & Nourish Their Relationships
Four in 5 people who took part in The New York Times research said they shared information with others as a means to staying connected when they wouldn’t otherwise keep in touch. And three in four (73%) share content online to help them connect with others who share their interests.
6. People Want to Feel Self-fulfilled
People enjoy sharing valuable information with others – and getting credit for it. As one person who took part in The New York Times research commented, “I enjoy getting comments that I sent great information and that my friends will forward it to their friends because it’s so helpful. It makes me feel valuable.”
Sharing content online also help people feel connected to those around them, with 69% of people saying that sharing information made them feel more involved with the world.
7. People Share to Support Good Causes
Four in 5 people share information about causes and brands they care about, with several people who took part in The New York Times study saying that when it comes to spreading the word about the causes they believed in, social media had empowered them.
Creating Content That’s Shareable
Now that you know the psychological factors that make people want to share, let’s get to the technical optimization on your page so that it’s easy for people to share.
8. Make it Really Easy for People to Share Your Content
If visitors on your site have to spend 5 minutes clicking around to share a post, chances are they’ll give up. So make it as easy as possible for people to share your content by incorporating social share buttons, links, tweetable quotes, and even Pinterest buttons to images. Placement positioning of these are also important and may require some testing. In general, it’s best to place social share buttons above, below, and/or on the left side of your content.
Adding social share buttons on the left side (as shown in the diagram above) gets a lot of attention as the buttons are continually visible as the reader scrolls down the page. Since people read from left to right, you should add your buttons on the left side.
However, for mobile devices with small screens, this can take up too much space and is best disabled. That being said, make sure it’s just as easy to share your content on mobile devices as it is on desktop, too.
Don’t go overboard with your social share button placements. Too many can crowd & negatively affect user experience.
See what we just did there? The “tweetable” content above typically gets 200% more tweets than using our standard share button on the bottom. If you’re using WordPress, there are various “click to tweet” plugins. The one we are using above is the TweetDis WordPress plugin, which is very easy to use and looks great. This makes it very convenient for readers to tweet just by clicking!
9. Ask People to Share Your Content
Simply asking people to share your content has a powerful effect. Readers might be completely willing and open to sharing your content, but they won’t do so, unless you ask. After your post, give a call to action by asking them directly to share with their social networks.
You can suggest a specific reason for sharing – like “re-post if you agree” or “share with your friends who like X product” – or just give them a general invitation. It’s a harmless request that will remind them that others could benefit from reading your content (and may thank them for it later).
Dan Zarella also studied the impact of asking people to share. After analyzing 10,000 tweets, he found that those that used the phrases “please retweet” or “please rt” were much more likely to be retweeted. The longer phrase “please retweet” drew four times more shares.
10. Encourage People to Comment
When people have made a contribution to something, they feel more invested in it. Using prompts at the end of your posts, such as posing a question about the content of the post, will encourage readers to leave a comment, which will then make them feel more compelled to share with friends.
Comments can increase the value and relevance of an article for many readers. So don’t hesitate to ask people in your social networks or even influential guest posters to leave a comment. Some people actually look forward to reading the comments section of a post, so interesting additions to the conversation could prompt them to re-post the article.
11. Always Use Images
Images make content more accessible and posts with images get more shares. Including images in a post (or even publishing a highly visual piece of content, such as an infographic) makes it easy for anyone glancing over the post or graphic to quickly get the basic gist of what it’s about.
According to psychologist Jerome Bruner of New York University, people only remember 10% of what they hear and 20% of what they read, but about 80% of people remember what they see and do. Make sure you use high quality images that are relevant to your topic.
QUICK TIP: On Facebook, posts that include images get 104% more comments, an 84% better click through rate and 54% more likes!
12. Write Strong Headlines
The headline is the first thing readers see when they start reading your content – and for about 80% of them, it’s the only thing they’ll see.
The vast majority of readers never get past the headline because it doesn’t grab them. Think carefully about your target audience and the content’s appeal before crafting your perfect headline.
QUICK TIP: Headlines should make an emotional connection with the reader. Most readers need this in order to continue reading and engaging with your content, and then going on to share it. Remember to utilize one of the psychological elements we talked about above into your headline!
Consider using this Headline Analyzer from the Advanced Marketing Institute, which determines the emotional impact of your headline. There are also tools like CoSchedule and KingSumo Headlines that can help you optimize your headlines.
13. Publish a Variety of Different Types of Content
Publishing content doesn’t automatically mean publishing posts or articles. So if you’re someone who finds it hard trying to come up with the right words for your content, use the medium that works for you. This might be something visual like an infographic or something more tangible like a video.
Different types of content appeal to different types of people. So when you’re next considering what kind of content to publish and share on your site, keep in mind the 6 different types of learning styles:
- Visual: Visual learners prefer graphs, images and diagrams.
- Aural: Aural learners learn best through listening to information and conversations, as well as when listening to music.
- Verbal: Verbal learners like the written word and learn best through reading and writing.
- Physical: Physical learners are most comfortable with physically doing a task, or when they are moving.
- Logical: These people have mathematical minds and learn through logic, reasoning, and systems.
- Social: Social learners learn best through talking and group work.
The best thing about creating a variety of content that appeals to people with different learning styles is that you’ll make your site more accessible to a wider audience and ensure your content can be shared on any social network.
If you have an archive of old content, it’s also worth looking into re-purposing your content. This means turning long-form posts into ebooks, adapting videos into podcasts, and finding new ways to publish existing content. Buffer has a great guide to on how to breath new life into old content.
14. Add Open Graph Meta Tags & Optimize Them for Sharing
Using custom titles, descriptions, and images can dramatically increase your engagement on social media platforms. Why? Because when a person copies and pastes your link to share on their favorite social network, it typically will pull up your page’s default title and meta description. Often, the image is missing or irrelevant.
By adding open graph meta tags to your post and optimizing the basic metadata, you can set the information you want to display and control what users see on their social feeds.
15. Get Your Timing Right
While people use social media 24/7 around the world, there are peak times when more people – and specifically your target audience – are frequently online. Posting your content during these peak times will get you more views and shares.
- The best times to post on Facebook is at 9am, 1pm, and 3pm on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
- The best times to tweet are noon, 3pm, 5pm and 6pm on Wednesday.
- The best times to post on Instagram are 2am, 8-9am and 5pm on Monday and Thursday.
It’s worth noting these times are general so use them as a guideline do your own research into the behaviors of your specific target groups. The best place to start is Google Analytics, where you can create custom reports to determine the best day and time to share your content on social media as well as measure your results.
FINAL TIP: Don’t forget to track your results using tools like Google Analytics so you can learn what works and what doesn’t work and make changes to your content over time.
Taking the time to create fantastic content that compels people to share your content takes a lot of work, but the payoff is worth it when your content is shared widely and you get feedback about how awesome it is.
It’s well-worth taking the time to optimize your posts to ensure your content is easily shareable. Always include images and a share-worthy headline, and consider re-purposing your content so you always have something fresh to share.
Have any content sharing tips or questions? Let us know in the comments below!
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