Social sharing is critical.
But how can you make your content as shareable as possible?
Follow this process, and consider the following 7 tips.
#1: Identify Your Most Popular Posts and Keywords
Take stock of your current content. What topics are already popular with your audience?
Look at your top content and keywords in Google Analytics. If you're using a social sharing plugin like Shareaholic or Digg Digg, you may be able to get some free analytics on your most popular content that can help you learn what your audience wants.
Examine what isn't getting shared and start to think about how you can replicate the success of the proven winners.
#2: Track and Leverage Trends
Know what is top-of-mind for readers. What are people already talking about, and how can you insert yourself in the conversation in a unique way with content?
This is where all that “listen first” stuff you hear all the time comes into play. But “listen first” is not just lip service—it's vital.
Here are some free tools that will make your listening efforts more efficient:
- LinkedIn Today—this is a great tool, especially for B2B bloggers. Follow the topics or channels related to your industry and see what's getting shared the most.
- Trendsbuzz—Trendsbuzz shows you the top 10 trends from Google, Twitter, Yahoo, Alexa and Wikipedia in a dead-simple interface.
- Know Your Meme—you don't want to hop on every single meme… that would seem forced. But leveraging one the right way is very shareable content. Know Your Meme will keep you in the loop so you can spot that opportunity when it arises.
- Google Insights—if you're stuck between two ideas, compare the two keywords in Google Insights. See what is getting more searches, and deduce from that which topic is more popular.
- Hashtags—for niche interests, Hashtags.org compiles the trending hashtags and articles being shared.
- Topsy—Topsy is a social media search engine that shows what's trending among Twitter, Facebook, blogs and videos.
Once you've identified the conversations that are happening, you should think of a way to use that information for a shareable blog post.
Inserting yourself in the conversation depends on what unique things your company has to offer. To leverage a trend, consider these different angles:
- The expert opinion: Is there someone in your organization who can offer advice pertaining to this popular topic?
- Data: Do you have access to data that would make an interesting study or infographic related to the trend?
- Survey: Leverage the voice of your community—what do they have to say about this topic? It doesn't necessarily have to be a formal study. Depending on your brand, a Storify roundup of an informal Twitter poll could work.
- Humor: This works great for memes. People love funny stuff! And trust me, they share funny stuff too.
#3: Think “Why Would People Share This?”
The Customer Insight Group (CIG) at the New York Times published an interesting study exploring why people share content online. They found that people share for a number of reasons to:
- Bring valuable and entertaining content to others
- Define themselves to others
- Grow and nourish relationships
- Give self-fulfillment
- Market causes or brands
Before you put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard)—really think—what's the hook?
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Only commit to your blogging ideas that show the promise of virality, and cut or tweak the ones that end up on the calendar “just because.” Don't create noise, create value.
#4: Make the Most of Your Headline
How can you optimize your copy for shareability? My advice: invest some thought in your headlines.
Your blog headline could be the most important part of your blog post because it's your first impression.
What makes a great headline? It's similar to writing a great subject line for email marketing. Think about the 4 U's that Copyblogger teaches us about great subject lines and headlines:
- Useful: Why is the blog post valuable?
- Ultra-specific: What can I expect to learn from the blog post?
- Unique: Why is this blog post compelling and unique?
- Urgent: Why should I read this NOW?
Consider all four of these qualities in every headline you write.
#5: Test Different Kinds of Promotion
To leverage this, you can make extra pinnable content that is visual in nature.
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In addition, think about using visuals to promote content on your own channels.
At my company in April 2012, we tested promoting content on our Facebook page with a photo and a link versus just sharing the link. Posts with a photo got 56% more clicks than those with just the link!
But in order to do this effectively, you've got to consider what visuals will go along with your social media promotion as you are creating the content.
Moral of the story: To really strive for engagement on the content you promote, you can't just copy/paste the same old thing to every one of your social channels. It takes a little more thought and work, but it does pay off in more shares and traffic to your posts.
#6: Optimize Your Content for Shareability
Once you've wired your content for shareability from a strategic and copywriting standpoint, you want to optimize a couple of technical aspects of your blog to make sure that they are in tip-top shape for your readers and sharers.
First, you need to familiarize yourself with the anatomy of a social share.
Here's an example for Google+. Pay attention to the 3 highlight elements—the featured image, the page title and the meta description.
If you don't pre-set these components, it could come out looking more like…
Or, in the case of Twitter:
It really should be a cleaner sharing experience:
There are so many fantastic bloggers who either forget or don't know how to clean up these small tweaks. But if you don't customize these key areas, you're not creating a seamless sharing experience for your reader. They could just choose not to share your content, and then you'll miss out on the traffic and engagement from that social share.
So what's the solution? First, focus on fixing the page title and meta description. WordPress bloggers can install the All in One SEO plugin so that these components are in one easy-to-find place.
Page Title—This is your headline that precedes your link when a reader clicks a social sharing button. It's also what is crawled by search engines. This needs to be keyword-rich for Google, descriptive and catchy for humans, and concise for Twitter. Choose your page title wisely.
Meta Description—This is a brief description of your content that shows up under your page title and link for social shares on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. It also shows up in search engine results. Include keywords in your meta description, but avoid overstuffing it with too many. Otherwise, the sentence doesn't flow and it does more harm than good.
Next, ensure that your featured image is properly formatted when it pops up on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ shares.
If you're a WordPress blogger, do this in the Add Media panel. When you upload an image for your post, select Use as featured image, which will pull this image up as the default for social shares of this content.
These customizations work really well for LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+, but Twitter is a beast all its own because of its 140-character restriction. You could go over your character limit with a bad page title, or end up awkwardly referring to a default Twitter handle or hashtag if you don't tailor the sharing buttons to your website.
A lot of your potential problems can be solved by altering the plugin settings on your social media buttons. Most social media bookmarks offer customizations such as which URL shortener you use and exactly how the tweets themselves look when content is shared. Check your plugin settings in the WordPress panel or check what options they offer on the installation pages of the website itself.
#7: Have Something Waiting for New Readers
Congrats! You created a piece of highly shareable content. Maybe it's because of a giveaway, you leveraged a meme just right or you wrote a highly informative list of tips.
Either way, it's going viral, you have improved the technical aspects of your blog and you're getting more and more shares because of it.
But what's next? Well, you don't want these new readers to just “hit it and quit it”—you want them to become regulars, and eventually loyal sharers.
Include calls to action to subscribe to future posts. Link to previous content in your posts to keep readers engaged in your blog. Use recommended content widgets to increase your time on site and drive readers to related content and other popular posts.
Make use of your blog's real estate! Thrill them once with your initial shareable content, but keep them coming back for more.
What do you think? How do you make your blog shareable? Let us know in the comments section below.
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