A large chunk of the content strategy cycle is spent planning and creating content — but what good is that content if it doesn’t get shared all over the Internet? In order to crack the code of what makes a blog post share-worthy, I’ve analyzed marketing blogs to come up with several factors that greatly contribute to the likelihood that a post will be shared on social media.
On my quest to determine whether or not the most shared posts contained common features, I gathered social share data for 40 posts with 300 or more shares. I also crosschecked these with 40 posts with 50 or fewer shares.
I entered URLs for SEO/Social Media/Marketing blogs into Counting Tweets in order to quickly find posts that had a particularly high or low number of tweets. This was generally a strong indication of a post’s overall share rate. Then, I used SharedCount to tally the total number of shares across Facebook, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn and Delicious.
To see which posts performed best and worst, check out the total tally for most shared and least shared.
For each of the posts on my list, I checked off whether or not the posts contained the following:
- Actionable Steps To Take—this means beyond a step-by-step process, they have included tools and methods that readers can implement.
- Screenshots—for visual clarification.
- Detail and Length—there is not merely a list of steps or resources, but a weighty explanation of each.
- Real Life Examples—either from the blogger’s personal experiences or accounts of what other people/companies are doing.
- Original Data/Research—from surveys, analytics, or tools that the blogger has put together for the post.
- Current News—the post revolves around a new tool or piece of information.
- Original Video/Images—beyond screenshots, there is original visual content.
- List of Resources—whether the post itself is a list of posts/tools/sites or whether the post includes such a list without adding detail to each list item.
Keep in mind that the decision to focus on marketing-focused posts largely relates to this selection of factors as these are the elements often found in such posts. Posts related to online marketing also have a higher tendency to be shared simply due to the nature of the industry and the habits of the people involved in it — but the inflated number of shares gives us further insight into trends and factors influencing shareability.
Overall, there is a clear divide between the most and least shared posts. While many of the most shared posts fell into multiple categories, quite a few of least shared posts did not fit into any.
The general pattern is that most share-worthy posts are pertinent to a wide audience, and include instructions and data that people find applicable to their own business practices. The posts that were not shared frequently related to personal hypotheses and opinions that were not backed up by substantial evidence or did not obviously lead to action on the part of the reader.
While it seems that not every factor necessarily leads to a post getting hundreds of shares, four major factors emerged as those that more than half of the most shared posts included: Actionable, Screenshots, Detail and Length, and Real Life Examples. Interestingly enough, a blogger does not necessarily have to perform extensive research or create original videos or images to have a winning post—it is more important to write posts that clearly teach readers a process or major theme that will lead them to take action.
It may be surprising that putting together a great list of helpful posts or tools or staying on top of current news contributes less to a post being share-worthy. The pattern holds true, however, that people would rather have a detailed explanation than a mere list, and people are not interested in your opinion about news unless you explain the consequences to which it leads, and what they can do about those consequences.
Finally, note that other, less controllable, factors lead to a post getting more shares. For example, a blog or writer with a large following has the upper hand and may get away with writing more personal and less actionable posts. Keep in mind, though, that many of these blogs and authors are well known because the majority of their posts fit the detailed and actionable format.
Above all, when creating content, write with the audience in mind. No matter how great your ideas are, if you can’t find a way to apply them to your readers, they have no motivation to read or share your posts. Staying on top of trends and periodically researching is great—but don’t forget to tie everything back in for your audience.
Secondly, make your content as visual as possible. Not only should it be actionable, but the user should be able to see how you do it. In January, I wrote a shareable post called 31 Types of Blog Posts for Every Day of the Month, which gained traction primarily because of its actionability and visual appeal.
Third, make your content relateable by humanizing yourself. Provide real-world examples of how you successfully implemented a strategy. Or, on the other hand (and this is sometimes more effective), detail a failure to implement a strategy that led to you rethinking the way you do things. People are much more likely to share a personal story than a simple list.
And, while data may not be on the top of the list of shareability, don’t underestimate the power of good data to shape your story and convey your ideas. And especially don’t underestimate the detrimental capabilities of bad or lazy data. If you’re not good at pulling data, talk to someone who is.
No one element can determine whether or not your content is shareable, but all of the above examples should increase the likelihood that your content will be shared.
How do you make your content share-worthy? What factors you would add to the list?