The 5 Step Strategy to Making Your Content Go Viral on Social
Have you ever purchased a new outfit, paraded it around your office, but ended up sulking your way home after racking up zero compliments during your 8+ hour work day? We've all been there, and a similar feeling of discouragement is to be expected when a strong piece of content doesn't receive the number of social shares you anticipated.
As a content marketer, I've been there time and time again. Spending 20+ hours perfecting a long-form blog post that doesn't resonate with your social audience makes you want to chuck your laptop off the 23rd floor and cuddle up with a bottle of wine under your desk.
I swear that image isn't me, but I did learn the hard way that there are strategic ways to prevent this disillusionment from occurring. Check out my 5-step strategy to create content and share it in the right way to maximize your social engagement time after time.
#1: Create Content around a Sharable Headline
On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will continue reading, according to CopyBlogger. The chances of sharing a piece are even lower. This is why the headline is without a doubt the most important part of every blog post, e-book, guide, and whitepaper you write. It will literally make or break your chances of making a piece of content successful. But how do you predict which headlines will resonate? Here a few tricks to get you started:
Numbered headlines are where it's at
I know, I know, this isn't mind-blowing information. It's something we should all know, but marketers often try to change things up with "how to" posts or "question" headlines. Sometimes these work, but time and time again numbers have proven to be the most click-worthy engaging headline makers.
Not only do numbers in a headline tell the reader that the post will be easy to digest rather than just a wall of text, but there's also something visually intriguing about the look of a number amongst characters. Don't believe me? Check out this data from Conductor, which proves that number headlines dominate.
Make BuzzSumo your best friend
BuzzSumo is by far my favorite go-to content tool for generating content ideas and crafting sharable headlines. The tool allows you to type in any topic, keyword or website, and filter by date (as well as content type, language and country) to see which posts around that search received the most social shares. This will also enable you to gauge if your title has the potential to succeed based on what people are already sharing.
My colleague, Erin Sagin, used this strategy with the site BuzzFeed (which is known for breaking the web with shareable content). She found this numbered post that had more than 547,000 shares:
From that concept she created the post below relevant to our industry, which ended up being one of our most-shared posts of that month:
Use stimulating adjectives
Lastly, attention-grabbing adjectives and superlatives almost always out-share other posts. Think "super-actionable", "outrageous", "mind-blowing", "shocking", and any other buzzwords that will bring your headline to life. Would you rather read about "10 Restaurants in NYC" or "10 Drool-Worthy Restaurants in NYC"?
#2: Draft a Personality-Infused Post
While the headline is by far the most important part of the content, if the post following the headline is written in a monotone, snooze-worthy style, then you've failed. Creating content has a purpose, whether it be building brand awareness or generating leads. The goals of your content will never be achieved if your copy is not infused with your engaging personality. At WordStream, we write each post from the voice of the author, attribute it to the writer, and use relatable, easy-to-understand language. While staying "on brand" is important, you need to find a happy-medium of staying in-line with your brands beliefs and tone, while writing with your own personality-infused style to not bore your readers.
#3: Create Engaging & Relevant Images
There's a reason we spend hours and upon hours on Pinterest and Instagram. Visuals are appealing, easy to consume, and even inspiring - they stimulate our brains and turn us from browsing mode to engaged mode quicker than an unattractive block of text. Nowadays including images in a blog post is a no-brainer, but the mistake many marketers make is choosing stock-like or unrelated images to fill space. Aren't you sick of seeing these?
Avoid obvious stock images
Also, since when did salads become so funny?
Salads are NOT funny
At WordStream, we've noticed certain visual components that made an article more sharable, including:
- Out-of-the-box images work. Think cats with laser beam eyes (but make sure it's relevant)
- Images with big, readable headline text perform well. Displaying the headline of your article as a visual turns your article into a shareable goldmine. We do this with almost all of our blog posts because the chances of people sharing with the image become drastically higher, and images always outperform plain text posts on social.
To create these, you can use Canva, a free and easy-to-use design tool where you can upload your own background (or use one of their free or paid templates), as well as add text and other visual components to the image.
Also, use vibrant colors. Think bright reds and oranges. Saturation is your friend.
#4: Quote & Inform Influencers
Pull together your list of influencers (if you haven't done so already), browse through their content, or recent interviews or appearances, and paraphrase or quote them with attribution to further support the points you're making in your post. Then, when you share your content on social, tag them in your post and email or LinkedIn message them to inform them that you've included them in your article. This may spur them to re-share your content to their own following, giving your post exposure to an entirely new audience. For more strategies on influencing your influencers, check out this post.
#5: Pay to Play
Saving the best for the last, this is now the most critical step to ensuring your quality content reaches the largest and most relevant audience possible. Praying for free organic results will lead you to a standstill of poor social engagement, so you need to cough up a few bucks and pay to promote your best content.
Whether we like it or not, average organic reach is continuing to drop as the space gets more and more crowded. Just take a look at the graph below showing how content published by businesses on Facebook continues to get less and less organic engagement as time goes on:
This is not to say you shouldn't be posting organically; most marketers can't pay to promote every post yet still need to maintain a consistent stream of social content for brand ambassadors, people researching the brand, and current followers. But you won't come close to reaching your potential if you're not running ads. I'd recommend starting with Facebook, which attracts roughly 7X the engagement that Twitter does, according to BI Intelligence. Spend a few bucks to run ads promoting your best content ensuring that you're utilizing Facebook's refined targeting options to show your content to the most in-market audience.
Creating great content is only a small piece of the puzzle. Utilize these tactics to expose a much larger audience to the quality content your company produces.
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