Marketers are forever chasing the elusive 'social share', but they rarely stop to ask: why do people share?
A study of 2,500 online sharers by the New York Times found five of the most common motivations:
- 49 percent share content to inform others of products they care about and potentially change opinions or encourage action.
- 68 percent share to define themselves and give a better sense of what they care about.
- 73 percent share to connect with others who share their interests.
- 69 percent share to feel more involved in the world.
- 84 percent share to show support for causes they believe in.
'The likelihood of your content being shared has more to do with your readers' relationship to others than their relationship to you,' says Garrett Moon at CoSchedule.
While there's no way to predict something going viral, producing content that tries to tap into these motivations – content that's useful, relevant and emotionally engaging – will undoubtably bump up those share button clicks.
Making content worthy of the share button
First and foremost, learn what interests your audience. Use your buyer personas and listen in on social media to see what's trending.
- Make sure your customers can actually find your content. This means using the sort of keywords that your leads might use as search terms, and promoting your content on social media and through email newsletters.
- Make it useful. Give advice: a how-to guide, top tips, in-depth article on a particular topic, etc.
- Make it relevant. If you've got something meaningful to add to current events, say it. It might just be a tweet, but if that gets retweeted it will draw people to the rest of your content. Try to find recent interesting studies that apply to your industry, pick a few of the most interesting bits of data and tell your audience why they matter.
- Match content to context. There are two sharing peaks during the day: between 10am and noon, and between 8 and 10pm. But the best time for sharing varies depending on the platform: it's 7am for email, but 11pm for Pinterest, for example. And, while content with interesting (read: non-stock) images and infographics generally does very well, via email people are more likely to share long, positive, intellectually challenging articles.
- Have an opinion. If you’re just spouting tired platitudes no one's going to click the share button. That’s not to say you have to be controversial, but have a clear voice.
- Don't feel you have to be original. Curated content displayed in the right way is eminently sharable and can demonstrate who you are and what you stand for. You could also make a 'best of' compilation of your own content.
Don’t be blindly seduced by the elusive share. Hypnotising as it is to see the number of share-button clicks skyrocket, ask yourself why that particular piece of content is being shared. Who is it being shared with? Are they acting on it? Maybe it's gone viral because you unwittingly made an amusing typo.
The ultimate question with any piece of content is: would you hit the share button? And who would you share it with? If you don't like the answers, it’s back to the drawing board.
Hat tips (in order of appearance) to Ben Grey and birgerking for the images.