First the bad news.
People don’t want to share your content, in general. Research shows people don’t usually share content they’re reading online, even if it’s great content. For example, an average Twitter user retweets only one in 318 content links they receive. Facebook reports just one-half of one percent of those who see a content share it. These staggering numbers suggest a miniscule number of the most active users is critical to spreading your content online.
Using the Psychology of Sharing
There’s a lot of hype around creating that people want to share it. Instead of buying into the hype, focus on reliable research that provides accurate insights and even competitive advantages. If there’s any organization on earth that wants to attract page views, it’s a newspaper, so let’s pay attention to how they use the psychology of sharing.
Psychology of sharing #1 To be useful
The number one reason people share is to bring informational and entertaining content to others. More than 90 percent of people carefully consider how the information they share will be useful to others.
Psychology of sharing #2 To define ourselves to others
More than half of people share content to give people a better sense of who they are and what they care about.
Psychology of sharing #3 To grow and nourish relationships
Three in four people share information online because it lets them stay connected with the people they care about.
Psychology of sharing #4 Self-fulfilment
Three in four people share content because it allows them to feel more involved in the world.
Psychology of sharing #5 To get the word out about causes and brands
Three in four people participants share content to rally clothes about a cause, a company, an idea they believe in.
As you read the list, it probably occurs to you that sharing content is a meaningful act, a very personal, intimate and important gesture. It’s nothing trivial at all.
The decision to share content is often a sign of relationships. A relationship with the source, a relationship with a network… even a relationship between the person and a piece of content. Igniting content is a symbol of kindness and caring and a reflection of who we are.
22 practical ideas to unlock the content code
Idea #1 Push the right buttons
Add social sharing buttons to your content site. A recent study showed content with sharing buttons is 700 percent more likely to spread than those without.
Idea #2 Tear down those walls.
Consider removing those singing in with an email or trading even more personal information for content. Those barriers turn many people away. The number varies widely by industry but research shows between 25 percent and 90 percent turn away.
Idea #3 Be entertaining, funny and inspiring.
Happiness is an important driver for social media sharing. Think about the content you like to spread to your friends or online community. A lot of it is joyful, funny or entertaining, right?
Idea #4 Go long.
Every marketing trend points to a need for short, concise content. Yet, the research suggests the longer the content, the more shares it may get, with pieces of 3,000-10,000 words getting the highest average shares. So write short easy-to-read paragraphs and use subheadings and bullet points to break up the text.
Idea #5 Aim for conversation, not controversy.
Without doubt, controversy ignites content. But it’s not a sustainable strategy. Controversy can be used most effectively when it’s associated with a positive cause.
Idea #6 Remember that the most important part of your content is not your content.
Stop writing sucky headlines. You must craft a descriptive, eotive, accurate, catchy and tweet-able headline. This is so fundamental yet it remains a challenge for most creators.
Idea #7 Be visual.
Read a piece of text and three days later you’ll remember 10 percent of it. Add a picture and the number increases to 65 percent. Reading is inefficient for humans. Your brain sees words as lots of tiny pictures and then you have to identify features in the letters to read them. It takes time.
Idea #8 Ignite with lists and infographics.
Research suggests a list or an infographic can double your chances that people will share your content. Both lists and infographics intrigue while still promising quick answers.
Idea #9 Boost social sharing with suggested stories.
It takes a lot of work to get someone to visit your site, so once you get them there, do what you can to keep them there. A great way to do this is to refer them to other relevant articles from your content site.
Idea #10 Revive content.
One depressing aspect of content creation is it’s short shelf-life. Content can be great and old even though it’s only two weeks ago. That’s why you need to invest in more evergreen content. There aren’t any fast and hard rules about creating evergreen content but every other month seems about right.
Idea #11 Determine the best posting time.
Don’t fall for blog posts with lists of the best times to post. The fact is it ultimately depends on a number of factors and you need to do the work to figure out the best time for you.
Idea #12 Repurpose content.
Evergreen content is a versatile workhorse and can be repurposed anytime to create new information for your readers.
Idea #13 Focus on feedback and reviews.
Reviews offer powerful social proof that can make or break your business, if you’re not careful. If we’ve never visited a business before, we almost always turn to this crowd-sourced content to decide if we should give a try.
Check out: 10 ethical ways to build social proof in your content
Idea #14 Be practical.
Sharing something useful with others is a quick and easy way to help people out, even if we’re not in the same place. Parents can send their kids useful advice even if they’re miles away. Passing along actionable content strengthens social bonds.
Idea #15 Learn to use hashtags effectively.
Hashtags are arguably the most important innovation in the history of social media. The humble hashtag has become the index card system of the web. It’s social media’s most important way to organize information, discover trends, content and ideas.
Idea #16 Make it look good.
How your content looks is also an important indicator of whether it’s share-worthy.When you head out for a night or fine dining, you don’t expect an expensive steak to arrive with a paper bag and a packet of ketchup. You expect premium content to look like premium too.
Idea #17 Concentrate on brand new research and ideas.
Many of your readers share your content because of the intrinsic value of helping others. Focusing your content on new insights from research, quotes and exciting new ideas will appeal to this psychological aspect.
Idea #18 Encourage comments.
Here’s are some ways:
- End your post with a question.
- Ask specifically for comments.
- Mention influencers with large audiences.
- Notify potential commenters.
Idea #19 Tap into FOMO.
Many people are obsessed with being constantly connected to the web because of FOMO (fear of missing out). Tap into this fear to get people to click and share. One way is to use negative words like ‘stop’, ‘avoid’, and ‘don’t’. Write “30 things to stop doing to yourself” instead of “30 things to start doing for yourself”. The former reasons everyone to find out if they’re missing out something.
Idea #20 Help readers spread ideas to help others.
Research found that the best predictor of buzz was in the brain regions associated with social cognition – thoughts about other people. You’d expect people to be most enthusiastic about spreading ideas that they themselves are excited about.
Idea #21 Include ‘click to tweet’ boxes in your blog post.
This is a fun and easy way to increase the number of tweets you get on your article. There’re several free services that allow you to embed tweetable quotes right into your blog pots.
Idea #22 Add your personality.
To stand out from a sea of content, you need something original. To be original, you need to inject your personality into what you create. Consider these two headlines:
- Five common mistake son Twitter (or) My biggest Twitter catastrophe
- Three great recipes for corn (or) How corn saved my rehearsal dinner
The first headline could have been written by anyone. But the second one comes from the perspective of a real person. It sounds human and connects with humans.
Content is merely the match lighting the fuse. You need a mass of advocates to actually light the match up and set your important work on fire.
So far we’ve been looking at the art of creating content. Next we’ll learn the art of creating your alpha audience to sing your praises.
Continue reading: Creating your Alpha Audiences, Lessons from the experts