Facebook users share billions of pieces of content every single day. So why does it feel like no matter how much content you create, nobody is sharing yours?
The New York Times Consumer Insight Group released the results of a study into how people choose the things they share online. They analyzed the sharing habits of thousands of consumers, determining the most common reasons that people share different types of web content with friends, family, fans and followers.
These reasons, such as reinforcing a sense of online identity and nourishing existing relationships, informed what the study suggests are seven key factors that influence sharing. While knowing the factors is one thing, learning how to implement them is another.
So, when you want to improve social shares, what should you do, and how can you do it?
Remember why people share.
People share to connect with each other, not with your business. Consumers share web content because it adds value to their own sense of identity and their relationships with other people — not because they want to drive traffic to your website. This means that creating shareable content isn’t necessarily a matter of how you can provide utility for your readers, but how your reader can provide utility for someone else.
Establish trust early and often.
Websites are like promises: anyone can make them, but they don’t mean anything without trust. If your audience doesn’t have reason to trust you and your brand, or they think that others might hesitate to trust you, they won’t bother sharing. Their credibility is riding on your credibility. Even something as simple as a polished, professional-looking website can give you a serious edge.
Keep topics simple and focused.
Consumers share content that has a clear purpose. Bear in mind that a simple, focused approach to content marketing is not the same as a shallow one; tackling one subject at a time will increase social shares, more so than trying to do too much at once. If you have difficulty breaking content down into a clear, actionable goal, you may be making things too complicated.
Retain your sense of humor.
With so much web content being published and shared on a daily basis, you need to stand out not only in the extent of your expertise, but in the authenticity and humanity of your voice. Consumers share content with which they form an emotional connection, and humor is a relatively quick and easy way to encourage those connections.
Instill a sense of urgency and timeliness.
Your readers are exposed to various forms of content that they might consider sharing but never do. Writing content with a sense of urgency, however, can give them that final push. It may be that you’re relating your topic to a current event or providing the information your readers need to prepare before something upcoming, like a seasonal change. If you’re focused on increasing social media shares, don’t underestimate the value of “here and now” content.
Engage with the act of sharing.
When users share content, they do it because they see value in the act of doing so — not just in the content itself. It’s your responsibility to recognize the people in your audience when they share your content. As the same New York Times study found, one key reason people share content online is so that they’ll be recognized as helpful and a contributor to the lives of others. You can provide that recognition with an act as simple as liking a post or responding to a tweet.
Make it easy to email.
It’s easy to focus heavily on social sharing because it takes place out in the open. However, the sharing that goes on out of sight can be even more valuable. Email is still paramount when it comes to sharing web content, so don’t put all your eggs in the social basket. Make sure that your audience has an easy, effortless way to email the article directly from the page itself.
There may not be any guarantees when it comes to getting more shares for your content, but remembering these factors that influence sharing can keep you on the right track.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Laura Roeder is an acclaimed social media marketing expert and founder of Edgar, a social media automation and content management tool. Connect with @lkr on Twitter.
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