Content marketing combines the creation of valuable content with social media marketing and search engine optimization (see 9 Keys to Content Marketing). It helps companies drive new leads, establish industry credibility, and stay top of mind with existing and potential clients.
Social media plays a large role in content marketing as one of the key distribution vehicles for content. In addition to advertising and email marketing, social media shares of content via sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr and other platforms allows good content to spread: the modern version of word-of-mouth marketing.
With that said, the spread of content via social media doesn’t have to be left to chance. There are specific things that companies and organizations can do to either encourage (or inadvertently discourage) the social sharing of content.
Here are nine ways to increase shares of your great content in social media. If your content is not getting shared, use this as a checklist to see where your efforts may be falling down.
1) Choose Topics People Care About
Not all topics are created equal, so you need to develop a sense for what your topics your audience really cares about. Some ways to do that include looking at search keyword volumes (e.g. via Google Adwords or various keyword tools), asking sales what customers always ask about, or seeing what consistently gets shared and commented on on your blog, competitor’s blogs and in social media in general (see this deep dive about business blog topics).
2) Rewrite That Headline!
I hate to say it but 99% of business blog post headlines are accurate but extremely dull. “Why Your Company Should Use Encrypted Storage Solutions” may describe what’s in the post clearly, but is not that compelling. Here are a couple of twists on the same content, with new headlines to increase interest, curiosity and share-ability: “5 Reasons Hackers Love Current Data Storage Solutions” or “Traditional Data Storage + Your Corporate Secrets = Serious Risk”. You may be able to come up with better, but the point is to intrigue the audience who sees this headline in social media or on your blog.
3) Make Posts More “Skimmable”
Many industry influencers stay top of mind with their social media followers by curating valuable, unique or interesting content. In fact, they often won’t read whole posts before they share. If your post is not designed in a way that makes it easy to quickly grasp the key points, they won’t bother to skim it or share it. In addition, many of your regular readers don’t have time to dig into large blocks of text. Think bold headers and key points (2-3 sentences) for each versus dense paragraphs.
4) Don’t Skimp on Pictures or Graphics
In addition to skimmable posts, pictures are a very important element for increasing social shares. Sites like Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest usually feature the main picture from your post. The visual elements are critical to getting attention for your post in social media, to communicating the key message, and often can make or break the social sharing of a post. Don’t spend time on a great post and take 2 seconds to pick a very boring and generic picture or graphic. Worse yet is to completely skip pictures. Take the extra time and find a unique style of graphics or pictures that works for your company and your social sharing will grow (and yes, you can use stock photography but don’t always go for the obvious).
5) Improve Ease of Sharing
Supermarkets make it easy to buy impulse purchases like candy and magazines by positioning them strategically at the check-out line. If you want people to share your posts, you need to position social share buttons right where any reader (or skimmer) will find them. I typically like to put them at the top or on the side (scrolling with the content) so they’re hard to miss.
6) Prime the Pump
This refers to the fact that many companies will create content, have share buttons visible (with counts of shares), and the posts will have a measly 0 or 1 shares. Are you telling me that you can’t muster more than 1 share across your whole company for that content? Having only a couple of shares per post communicates a lack of interest from both the company and readers. Having at least a few shares per post shows that there’s some interest and makes other people more likely to share it themselves. Encourage the authors and others in the company to prime the sharing pump.
7) Build Your Social Foundation
In order to maximize sharing of your content, it helps if you have a large set of followers on one or more social platforms that make sense for your brand. Each real (not paid for) connection, follower or fan can have 10′s, 100′s, 1000′s, 100,000′s (you get the point) of followers themselves. With great content optimized for sharing, you can potentially reap 100′s of shares of your content from your own social base and their connections.
8) Don’t Be Selfish!
Don’t expect people to be jumping over each other to share your content if you’ve never lifted a finger (or clicked your trackpad) to comment on, like or share other people’s content. By building up some online goodwill, you’ll increase interaction with your content, including shares. Don’t forget to help others spread their great content well before you ask people to share your content!
9) Connect with Current Events or Memes
Connecting topics that your readers care about with current events is a great way to create a relevant and interesting post. People love to share a new angle on a current topic or a creative addition to recent Meme. See some examples here: Big Data and the Superbowl, Justin Bieber and South by Southwest (SXSW) (coming up again soon). To connect with current topics in your content, you have to move fast or plan ahead!
What have you done to increase Social Sharing?
So you can see, growing the number of social shares is not something that will “just happen”. Savvy digital marketers, business owners, PR professionals or social media managers (including you) can be strategic about the content they produce, how it appears, how it’s introduced into the world and who sees it.
What have you found that increases your social shares? Let us know in the comments below…and if you like this post, please share!