In this red-hot competitive marketing world, "content" is not enough. The focus needs to shift from writing to igniting - content ignition!
If our content never moves, if it simply sits on a website without any views, shares, and engagement, it has about the same value as the world's greatest movie script locked from view in a cold, dark vault. The investment in our content is largely wasted.
In this post I will cover 12 "quick hit" structural actions you can take with your content to make it more "shareable."
The basic idea is that we want to remove every possible obstacle in our control so there is simply no excuse not to share your content!
Here we go. Let's ignite ...
1. Push the right buttons.
Sadly, I have to begin this list with what should be the most obvious recommendation ... but perhaps the most useful: Add social sharing buttons to your content site.
Does that seem like odd advice? When I help businesses with their social media strategy, half of them do not have social sharing buttons on their website - even very large companies! In this case, the organizations are almost challenging their readers to share the content by denying them the convenience of a simple share button!
Social recommendations from friends and family are the most trusted source of information for consumers according to eConsultancy. When your customers share positive opinions and experiences on social media, it increases your credibility among potential customers in a way you, as a business, can never accomplish alone. So there must be intense focus on making it easy for those transmissions to flow, starting with the sharing buttons.
2. Focus on feedback and reviews
Another important form of social transmission is feedback and reviews. Offer as many outlets as possible where customers can provide feedback. Join services like Yelp, Citysearch, Google Places and other review sites associated with your location and industry and solicit customer reviews.
Asking for shares, reviews and feedback is a fairly standard practice. What many brands fail to do is feature testimonials and brand evangelists on their websites and social media profiles. What a missed opportunity!
People love attention and special treatment-the customers you feature will likely become even stronger supporters of your brand. Plus, showcasing objective opinions on your website may increase your credibility among potential customers. There are some great tips for attracting positive Yelp reviews here.
3. Be entertaining, funny and positive.
Think about the content you like to spread to your friends or social media tribe. Chances are a lot of it is funny or entertaining, right? Well, turns out there are a lot of people like you out there! Research into the most-shared articles on the web uncovers these emotions described by people sharing the content:
- Awe (25%)
- Laughter (17%)
- Amusement/entertainment (15%).
Pew Research shows that 35 percent of men and 43 percent of women are on Facebook primarily to see entertaining or funny posts. If you're not afraid to get creative, you have a huge opportunity right in front of you. If people want humor, why fight it?
Conversely, the least popular emotions were sadness and anger, which made up 7 percent of the emotions expressed by content-sharers. So laugh it up with your readers to help ignite social sharing.
4. Go long.
You might have read statistics on how more people are increasingly consuming content through their mobile devices, implying that we need to write short, bite-sized content to satisfy their short attention spans, right?
According to an analysis of 100 million web-based articles, on average, long-form content actually gets shared more than short-form content. In fact, the longer the content, the more shares it gets, with 3,000-10,000 word pieces getting the most average shares of any category. Not surprisingly, there is a lot more short-form content being written. How much more? There were 16 times more content with less than 1,000 words than there were with 2,000+ words. Could be an opportunity?
If you're writing long-form content, remember to make it easy to scan, and not a wall of text. Structuring it as a list post is a simple way to do that, but if you're not writing a list, make sure you write shorter, easy-to-read paragraphs, and use sub-headlines and bullet points to break up the text.
5. Use Hashtags
Hashtags are arguably one of the most important innovations in the history of social media marketing. The humble hashtag has become the index card system of the web. It is social media's most important way to organize information. It is critical to discovering trends, content and ideas.
They're so widely used that brands now feature them on advertisements, TV shows, even the big screen at sporting events as the hashtag has crept into popular culture.
Following a hashtag also organizes people. The people following a hashtag from every corner of the earth might be starting a company, a discussion that leads to innovation, or the overthrow of a government. Hashtags are the cornerstone elements for communicating everything from disaster relief to memes.
They can also be an important element in ignition equation as people search for content and ideas on certain themes. Some research indicates that the presence of a hashtag could increase social transmission by as much as 70 percent.
For everything you need to know about using hashtags as part of a marketing strategy, refer to Chapter 9 of The Tao of Twitter.
6. The most important part of your content is not your content
Do you want to increase the shareability of your content by 400% in just one easy step?
Lean in close now as I share this secret: "Stop writing sucky headlines."
In today's world, you simply MUST craft a descriptive, accurate, catchy and "tweet-able" headline. This is so important, so fundamental, and I am mystified as to why it remains such an obstacle to so many content creators. In fact, the headline is more important than the video or body of the text. Why? Because we live in a world of scanners and if you can't grab somebody by the throat in a nano-second you have lost them. They will never see the rest of the post.
So here is my Ever-So-Useful List of Best Blog Post Headline Practices:
- Make it "tweetable short."
- It should be descriptive and accurate. Don't EVER mislead readers.
- Make it creative enough to stand out in a crowded blog reader.
- Numbered lists in a headline work well and increase social transmission by 50 percent.
- Make sure the "value proposition" offers something helpful.
- Use descriptive, active and unusual verbs and adjectives.
- Ideally it would contain one keyword that would help a search engine determine the theme of the article and aid your SEO.
- Don't make your headline an after-thought. It's the most critical part of the post. Work it.
7. Be visual
Adding a photo or illustration increases the probability that your content will get shared.
When using Facebook as your content distribution channel, for example, sharing of the content is doubled, on average, if you include a photo. Naturally, brands are figuring this out - 74 percent of all brand posts now contain a photo.
When formatting a photo for a blog post, most blogging platforms give you the chance to assign a meta tag or "alternative text" to the photos. Adding the key word or theme from the article to the photo doesn't take much time but can provide a small SEO boost.
8. Infographics ignite
The research of 100 million posts also showed that you doubled your chances that people would share your article if it included a list or an infographic.
Whether you love infographics and listicles or hate them, it is difficult to ignore the data - they WORK. These types of content attract dramatically more social sharing than how-to articles, what posts (articles whose title started with the word "What"), Why posts (articles that tried to answer a "Why" question) and videos.
It makes sense. Both list posts and infographics help customers consume content more effectively in an information-dense environment.
A list article with the number 10 in the headline is the best number for social transmission, scoring four times the social shares as the next nearest number in the study.
9. Hold onto them with suggested stories
It takes a lot of work to get somebody to visit your site so once you get them there, do what you can to keep them there. A great way to do that is to use a free widget like LinkedWithin to suggest similar content for your readers. It has four powerful benefits.
- It effectively resurrects relevant older content. That gives you more bang for your content investment.
- I have not been able to find any universal data on this but for me, LinkedWithin increases page views on my site by 8 percent. That's HUGE!
- By taking people more deeply into relevant content, it increases the chances of connection, subscription, or perhaps even clicks into commercial parts of your site.
- It definitely increases social sharing. It's not unusual to see new readers to my blog tweet three, four, or even more stories in a matter of a few minutes as they go from post to post via LinkedWithin.
Bonus tip: LinkedWithin uses an illustration from your old posts as a visual prompt to keep customers clicking ... another great reason to always include a photo or graphic with your content.
10. Revive content to boost social sharing
One of the most depressing aspects of content creation in this hyper-competitive market is the short shelf life of the content. I actually had one person tweet to me "Great post - even though it is older content." The post was only four weeks old!
Research shows that social sharing on a post is usually over by the fourth day. In fact, after three days, the number of social shares drops by at least 96 percent across every major social network.
This is inevitable, right? Not necessarily. Here is an example of content that breaks the "death cycle"...
A few months ago I noticed something startling in my statistics. Over the life of my Twitter account, a total of 100,000 people had unfollowed me! Isn't that crazy? As I dug into it, I discovered there was a sub-culture of people who do mass Twitter following and then mass unfollowing. The weird statistic had nothing to do with me. It was residual effect of people trying to "game" Twitter.
I thought this would make a provocative blog post and I had some fun with the headline: "Why 100,000 People Unfollowed Me on Twitter." But it was also a very helpful post that answered a lot of questions people had about this strange behavior.
Here are the total social sharing statistics (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+) for the post:
April 2013 378
Sept 2013 654
Dec 2013 1,012
March 2014 1,144
Sept 2014 1,858
Jan 2015 2,020
How is this possible? We just saw a statistic proving that most blog posts "die" after three days. Yet this post kept chugging and chugging for years!
Evergreen content is always relevant and useful. This content often answers your customers' most common questions and rarely goes out-of-date. For example, a "Mommy Jogger" blog would feature evergreen content that describes the correct use of jogging strollers. This post would be useful and relevant for years ... and could also be re-posted as new people look for your content.
And that is exactly what I did.
I could see that this was a popular, evergreen post that people enjoyed so I tweeted out to my audience about once a month. And each time I did, it received more comments and social shares. A LOT more!
This is an obvious strategy many businesses ignore because they somehow feel strange about posting "old" content. Evergreen content is a very valuable asset that can ignite for many years.
12. Re-purposing content
Evergreen content is a versatile workhorse and can be re-purposed to create new information offerings for your customers. A series of evergreen posts can be compiled, edited, and offered as an in-depth special report on a subject. You can also turn the evergreen posts into speeches, webinars, videos, and email courses - just to name a few ideas.
One technique that has been successful for me is turning my best "old" content into colorful presentations on Slideshare. My original blog post "Six questions that lead you to a social media strategy" had a total of about 7,000 page views.
After I posted it on Slideshare, the same content has been seen more than 100,000 times! Slideshare is free to use, owned by LinkedIn, highly indexed by Google, and a deep educational resource for many people. At the end of the presentation, I had a call to action to learn more by buying my book Social Media Explained. I could easily track this link to see how many clicks I received.
Best of all, by re-purposing the content on a new channel, I was reaching an entirely new audience who never saw the first post. It also ignited a new round of social sharing on essentially the same piece of content with no additional development.
Here are a few more ways to re-purpose and re-ignite your content with little or no incremental time or expense:
- Narrate existing slide presentations and turn them into YouTube videos
- Take the audio from videos and use it in podcasts
- Assemble blog posts into themes to create helpful eBooks and customer guides
- Use blog content as chapters for a book
- Turn list posts into infographics
- Post infographics on Slideshare and Pinterest
Starting to see what I mean? The combinations are endless.
Well, I hope that starts you on your journey toward content ignition. I would love to hear any advice, tips, or insider tricks you have to get your content to move through the web!
This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM's Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.