Orig. Post September 17, 2014 by Pratik Dholakiya, Search Engine Journal | Re-Post September 25, 2014
Everything that can be said has been said before. Now, we need to find new ways of saying it.
And that’s exactly what this post aims to help you with. I’m not going to tell you to dig up some awesome story or fact that hasn’t been shared. In fact, I suggest the opposite.
Embrace the fact that you’re writing things other people are sharing. Just make it sound cooler. Write it better. Put a spin on it. Strike a chord. Produce some new research.
When it comes down to it you have two choices: Talk about a new trends, data, or publications; or write what others are writing just try to say it better.
For the best content, I recommend aiming to do both.
So, let’s dive into exactly why people share content and how you can use “sharing psychology” to create more shareable content for your brand.
Understand the Psychology of Sharing
The first step to getting people share our content is to analyze human behavior. What drives people to do things? What drives people to share content?
The most fundamental component to keep in mind is when people share content, they are getting some sort of reward for it.
What reward does your content offer them?
Second, by sharing something a person is taking partial ownership and accepting that the content reflects on them as a person. Thus, people are only going to share accurate content they feel makes them look good. Does your content do this?
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania analyzed thousands of pieces of content that was shared to understand the psychology behind why people share. Between that study and this article from Association for Psychological Science, we can deduce the following reasons why people share content.
- Positive articles are more likely to be shared
- People like to share articles that elicit “awe” reaction
- Sharing content is used as a way to establish an emotional connection with others
- People share content on topics that define who they are and what their beliefs are
- Content is shared because it evokes emotional stimuli, whether positive or controversial
From there we can build content that speaks to human psychology and start down the road to creating more shareable content.
How to Make Your Content More Shareable
Once you’ve got a good grasp on why people share, it is time to apply this knowledge to your own content creation process.
There is no general rule that works for every brand. I think marketing is a grey world and I never like to draw black and white lines. Rather, take into consideration the following 20 ways to help make your content more shareable and implement the ones that resonate with you and your brand.
1. Write With Personality
Jot down a style guide for yourself. Think about your company’s personality, values, and quirks, and then think of your own personality and weave them all together into one awesome voice for your brand. Write in the first person and add personality and life experience to your posts.
People are more apt to emotionally connect to your content when they feel like they are connecting to the writer. Remember, one of the biggest reasons people share a piece of content is because they are connected with it on an emotional level.
2. Add Something Unexpected
Try out shock value. Compare two things that have nothing to do with each other and bring them together. Remember Freakanomics by Steven D. Levitt and and Stephen J. Dubner? It was a best seller because people were shocked at the parallels the author drew. Can you do this in a blog post?
3. Gather New Data to Publish
Whether you work with a third party to gather data, survey your own consumer base, or email a poll; gather your own data instead of regurgitating someone else’s. People love reading and sharing new information.
4. Trigger an Emotion
While adding something expected elicits a “knee jerk” reaction, that is not an emotion. Some brands can market really well through nostalgic content.
Think about the Huggies commercial. I’m not even a parent and that commercial still tugs at me.
While you may not be producing a commercial, you could post a sweet Instagram picture with a quote or post something on Facebook that takes your audience on a trip down the memory lane.
5. Possess Thought Leadership
Make yourself a thought leader on a topic. Only write about cutting edge strategies, new information, or awesome products. Once you are a trusted and reliable source, your audience will be much more likely to share your content.
When people share content, they are taking partial ownership for whether or not it sucks. They are not going to recommend content from someone they don’t trust. It’s your job to be the reliable thought leader who puts out content that makes your audience look cool.
6. Ask Your Network What They Want
From customers to followers, this is one of the simplest but most useful tactics.
Simply send out an email or tweet asking your consumers what topics they would like to see more often.
When you implement their suggestions, let them know! When someone feels like they were part of the creation process, they will take ownership of that content and that is pretty much a guaranteed content share.
7. Analyze Your 5 Most Successful Pieces of Content
Make a spreadsheet or use a tracking tool to analyze your most successful pieces of content. Success here is defined by social shares because we are discussing “shareable content.”
Look at your five most shared pieces of content and note a handful of traits they all have in common. Apply these traits to all of your content from now on. Analyze things like post titles, types of content, as well as visual aspects of the content.
8. Predict New Trends
By predicting new trends, you are showing people you are ahead of the curve. When people share your content they are positioning themselves as trend setters and early information sharers as well.
9. Try New Formats
Visual pieces of content tend to get the most shares. Try an infographic or create more visually driven content. Maybe you already do this? Then mix things up a little with some research reports or more in-depth blog posts.
10. Make Your Content Visually Appealing
Again, visual content is important. But I don’t just mean pretty pictures and graphics. I am also referring to content that is visually appealing at first glance. Make sure it’s segmented into digestible pieces with bold text, headings, sub-headings, and short paragraphs.
11. Use a Strong but Clear Title and Introduction
Gimmicky may work sometimes, but often people just want to get to the point and know exactly what your post is going to give them. So I am an advocate of being creative with the title and crafting a catchy but informative introduction. Your readers should know exactly what they’re getting into.
What does this have to do with creating shareable content? When a good title is just a piece of bait for mediocre content, no one is going to share that, right? Give your readers what you promise.
12. Keep it Simple
The biggest mistake some content creators make is overly complicating their topic. Write in an authentic and conversational voice if that’s your personality. Make your blog posts easy to read.
If you are writing a white paper, simplify complex topics so that your readers can get through it and recommend it as a resource.
13. Have a Clear CTA
This is one of the simplest yet most effective tactics to prompt your readers to share your content. At the end of a blog post say something like “Did you like this post? Then pass it on to your friends!”. Sometimes people just need a little push.
14. Use Topic Generator Tools
There are plenty of tools out there to generate content ideas. Browse the questions people are asking on Quora and turn the responses into posts. It’s not a bad idea to title your posts after those questions!
15. Include Shareable Assets on Larger Content
Insert images readers can pin or graphs they can embed into their own content. Also include “click to tweet” so your readers can seamlessly share parts of your content easily.
16. Experiment With Your Content’s Shelf Life
Experiment with both evergreen content (content with long shelf life) and trending content (content that has to do with a holiday or hot topic) so that you have a variety in your tool box. Evergreen content keeps your strategy going while trending content gets spikes in shares. Both have their pros.
17. Figure Out Your Audience’s Motivation
If you’re a marketer, you are likely on social media. Look at what people are sharing and ask yourself why they are sharing it. Use these clues to analyze your audience’s motivation for sharing and give them content that motivates.
18. Give an Old Content a Thorough Information
Of course, the majority of our content is about topics other people have written about many times. What you lack in originality, you can make up for in thoroughness. Include more statistics and tips for a better-rounded piece than what is already out there.
19. Create a One-Stop Shop Content
Compile different stories, case studies, tips, etc. so that your content on any given topic is the go-to resource because it’s full of different perspectives or voices. For example, you can interview a bunch of bloggers on any trending topic and make a very detailed post with different voices/answers. Let them all know when the post goes live and they would be more than happy to share it within their social media outlets.
20. Tell Someone Else’s Story
People love a new perspective. Get it. Interview a person or people on a topic that gives your audience another perspective. Intrigue is one of the most common reasons people share content.
Jim is a 30 year veteran of Fortune 500 sales and marketing with companies such as Oracle, Dell, and EMC, as well as Hilton and Omni hotels. His passion lies in helping emerging growth companies raise funds by leveraging the marketing tools and strategies that large corporations typically use. His focus is simple. “Help Businesses Raise Capital!”