Have you ever written an article or blog post you thought might go viral in your niche but got no traction? Or one that was really interesting and useful, only to see it attract few readers and even fewer sharers? You may be overlooking simple, quick changes that will get your content shared more frequently.
There are lots of ways to get more eyes on your content, but in this article we’ll focus mostly on one strategy – making it easier for your content to be not only shared but re-shared, too.
The Power of “Easy”
Nobody who visits an article or post you created arrives with the intention of sharing it with anyone else. They are there because the headline, image, or topic attracted their attention. If they don’t find the content interesting or useful, they obviously won’t share it.
If they DO like what they see, they may decide to share it. They might post to social media if it’s useful or amusing. They might share with a friend who could benefit. With rare exceptions, neither of these create a lot of motivation to share. That’s where “easy” comes in.
According to behavior design expert BJ Fogg, you need three things to make a behavior (like sharing your article) occur:
- Motivation – the person wants to do the behavior or wants the result of doing the behavior.
- Ability – the behavior can’t be too difficult or require too much effort.
- A prompt – something that the person sees or experiences that acts as a trigger to get the ball rolling.
In the case of sharing your article, you can’t do much to increase your visitor’s motivation to share. While one occasionally sees gimmicks like an entry in a contest for each share, these are neither appealing nor practical for most businesses.
You may not be able to change your visitor’s minimal motivation, but you can use the other two elements to your advantage.
Make Sharing Options Obvious
While any piece of web content can be shared, reminding visitors to share increases the probability it will happen.
While viewing content, visitors are frequently prompted with sharing icons.
Most often, one sees these icons placed before, after, and/or to the side of content. While it might be tempting to include a full range of sharing options, too many buttons will be distracting and might actually reduce sharing. Rather, include the choices you think most appropriate for your audience.
Facebook and Twitter work for most content. LinkedIn is good for business content. Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, and others may fit other types of content very well. Other options include email and copy link icons.
Some sites use a floating icon bar that stays in view as the reader scrolls through the article. This keeps the prompt visible and makes sharing easy at any time.
Mobile browsers, web browsers, and mobile apps may require different displays for sharing options.
Optimize your shares for engagement
What’s the biggest problem I see with sharing on news and content sites? It’s what happens after the visitor clicks on the share icon. In my experience, nine out of ten content sites fail to maximize the engagement potential for their shares.
Your content has a chance of going viral only when shares happen elsewhere. That is, sharing can only explode when people reshare it on Twitter, Facebook, and other popular communities. The technical details of sharing will vary by medium, but I’ll use Twitter – perhaps the most common tool for sharing content links – as an example.
Beyond the link
Often, clicking the share button only populates the post box with a link to the article. This is the bare minimum, and it forces the visitor to come up with some text for the post. Some visitors may not follow through with a post. Others may describe the link with text that doesn’t encourage interaction by others – not everyone is a gifted tagline writer.
Create engaging text
Most sharing tools will let you populate the share with custom text of your choice. This is preferable to repeating the headline of the article, which will usually appear automatically below your tweet. Instead, write something engaging that complements the headline – a catchy quote, a benefit readers will get, etc. Or, spark their curiosity by asking a question without offering the answer.
It makes sense to tag two classes of people: those mentioned in the content and the content creator. If the content is about someone, or quotes them, or discusses their new book, tag them in the tweet. They may share it with their followers and extend its reach.
Tag yourself (or the author, brand, etc.), too. When I share a piece of content with my followers, I always try to include the content’s author and/or company in my tweet. If it’s not built into the share text or obvious in the byline, though, I’m unlikely to spend the time to hunt it down.
Tagging yourself or your brand helps in two ways. First, when the content is shared, it’s brand exposure. Second, you may gain new followers as the content circulates.
Check your headline
Chances are, you have already crafted a headline designed to attract clicks. Since the headline will appear boldly in social media shares, a headline that sparks viewer interest is doubly important.
Check your image
The primary or featured image in your post will usually be the most visually prominent feature in the shared content. It should support the headline but also attract attention in its own right. If someone finds the image interesting, they will look at the headline and the share text.
Deconstructing a Tweet
One approach I favor is a preformatted share option that doubles as a “pull quote” to emphasize an important idea. For example, this quote is from an interview with author Dorie Clark:
While the image shows most of the text that will appear in the tweet, the software (a WordPress plugin in this case) is configured to add the author’s name or handle to the share text automatically. The visitor is free to change the text in any way before sharing, but most will use it as is.
Here’s what the final tweet would look like:
I wouldn’t normally tag myself, but I wanted this example to show all of the elements described above.
This isn’t click-bait content. It has little chance of going viral. But it should attract the attention of viewers familiar with Clark and her work. Some will click through to view the content, and perhaps a few will reshare.
That was easy!
What was the total effort required to produce that well-formatted tweet? Just two clicks. A visitor clicks once on the share icon and once to send the tweet.
There was no need for the visitor to write something clever, to figure out Clark’s or my handle, to copy the article link, or anything else. Just two clicks.
Jeff Bezos understood the importance of minimizing customer effort when Amazon fought to keep its One-Click patent for ecommerce orders. Even a single click advantage (competitors who didn’t license the patent needed a second click) was worth fighting for.
“When you reduce friction, make something easy, people do more of it.”
Do you want more social shares for your content? More engaging, impactful shares? Then, follow Bezos’s advice – make it easy!