Ever wonder why some people’s content goes viral and gets tons of social shares? Is there some content marketing secret sauce you don’t know about? To try to answer this million-dollar question, for a period of eight months BuzzSumo analyzed over 100 million articles, and this is what they found out.
Obviously the prerequisite to getting people to share your content is to create compelling, valuable content that is worth reading and sharing. But once you’ve done that, there are 10 key ingredients that will help you create insanely shareable content:
- Longer form content gets more social shares.
With everyone on their mobile devices now, bite-sized content will likely get more reads and shares because of people’s shorter attention spans, right? Apparently not. BuzzSumo found that the longer the content, the more social shares it gets. Articles between 3,000 and 10,000 words on average received the most social shares, at 8859 shares.
Surprisingly, BuzzSumo discovered that there was a lot more short-form content being created than long-form content. This means if you are willing to put in the time and effort to create well-crafted, in-depth articles offering valuable insights, your content will have more opportunities to stand out and gain more social shares.
- Articles with at least one image gets more Facebook shares.
In their analysis, BuzzSumo found that content with at least one image on average got more shares on Facebook, regardless of how visually appealing the images were. This just goes to show how important the presence of visual elements is.
Articles that implemented social meta tags for Facebook, which allows you to show a specific preview image in your post, also saw more than three times of social shares and likes than those posts that didn’t. It’s important to implement social meta tags because images are the first thing potential readers see, and help to determine whether they would click and read your content or not.
- Articles with at least one image leads to more Twitter shares.
As well, according to BuzzSumo’s analysis, tweets with OpenGraph image tag did significantly better on Twitter than those posts that didn’t. So it’s important to not only add images to your content, but also to your posts on Twitter.
- Inspire amusement, awe and laughter, and appeal to readers’ narcissistic side.
Awe, laughter and amusement were the three most popular emotions invoked, based on the 10,000 most shared articles across the web. This perhaps can be explained by a research The New York Times conducted few years ago. They interviewed 2,500 people to find out the primary reasons why people shared content online. And the top reasons were:
- To share valuable or entertaining content with others
- To give people a better sense of who they are
- To stay connected and maintain relationships with others
- To feel more involved in their community or in the world
- To spread the word about causes they care about
You can see why funny and awe-inspiring content is popular. It fulfills the first three reasons of why people share content. Sharing entertaining content allows people to bring value to their friends, show they have good taste, and to drive conversations and reactions in their friends.
Content that appeals to people’s narcissistic side also got more shares – content that helps people identify who they are. BuzzSumo found that 80% of the top 10 most shared articles were quizzes. Why is this so? When people share their quiz results, they help others learn more about themselves as well as their values and tastes.
Similarly, sharing an opinionated piece also shows others where people stand on a certain issue. While not everyone would agree with your standpoint, those who agree with you are more likely to share your content.
- People love infographics and lists.
This may be surprising to some, but infographics and lists get more average social shares than other content types like how-to articles or videos. There are many possible reasons for this. Infographics allow people to digest a tremendous amount of information in a quick, visually interesting way. Similarly, list posts are easier to read and skim-friendly, and they tell people exactly what they can expect (i.e. 7 ways you can do something).
When you’re writing long-form posts then, it’s important to keep it easy to read and scan, with images or charts to break up the text. One way to do this is by structuring your article as a list post, or you can use sub-headings and bullet points so it’s not a long wall of text.
The most shared piece of content I ever created was 99 Facts On The Future of Business when I was at SAP. It is a simple Slideshare of 99 inspiring facts with great images and “click-to-tweet” quotes.
- 10 is the magic number for list posts.
BuzzSumo found that 10-item list posts on average got the most social shares. They had four times as many shares than the second most shared list posts of 23 items. So when you’re writing list posts, try to round up or down to 10 items if you can.
- People share content that looks credible.
Trust matters. Having a byline at the start of a post and/or a bio at the end had more shares than those posts that didn’t have a byline or bio, particularly for Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. For example, on Google+, articles with a byline or bio had 42% more social shares than those that didn’t.
This is likely because most of the followers we have on those channels are people who we are associated with professionally. Facebook, on the other hand, tends to be our close friends and family, so we are more likely to share entertaining and funny content. So on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, we usually prefer sharing content that is from a trustworthy source to build our own credibility and thought leadership.
- With content amplification, influencers have a multiplier effect.
In their analysis, BuzzSumo found that having just one influencer sharing your content can lead to 31.8% more social shares. Having three influential people sharing your content can double the number of social shares. And when you have five influencers sharing your content, the total number of social shares almost quadrupled.
So how do you get influencers to share your content? The most effective way to do this is by building a relationship with them first, then getting them involved in your content creation process. People are more likely going to share content they’re involved in, even if indirectly.
- Re-promote your old content regularly.
You just posted that article you spent a week researching and writing, and people are sharing it! Great! But after two or three days, has the number of your social shares dropped? According to BuzzSumo’s analysis, after the first week of publication, you can expect at least 86% drop in your number of social shares the following three weeks.
So how often should you promote your old content? BuzzSumo suggests waiting at least a week after an article is published to re-promote it again, to get as much exposure as you can for your old content. Of course the prerequisite here is that your content must be evergreen content.
And even if some of your old posts aren’t evergreen, there are ways to promote them again. For example, you can re-promote an old piece if it ties into an upcoming event or holiday.
- Best day for social sharing is Tuesday.
The day of the week you publish and promote your content can have a huge effect on how much social shares it gets. BuzzSumo found that on average the best day is Tuesday, but keep in mind that this also depends on the social network you’re on:
- Best day overall: Tuesday
- Best day for Facebook: Tuesday
- Best day for Google+: Tuesday
- Best day for Twitter: Tuesday
- Best day for LinkedIn: Monday
- Best day for Pinterest, Monday
Obviously some of these things will depend on your audience. If your audience is only into kittens and babies gifs, then long-form content packed with insights probably isn’t what they want to read or share.
To create highly shareable content, you need to first understand what your audience is actually interested in reading and sharing. Research your topic or industry and see what type of content gets the most shares. Also do a search on your competitors to see what types of posts or topics get shared the most, as well as the social networks their readers use most frequently.
Here’s a quick guide to help you develop an effective social media strategy so you can get the most out of your content marketing efforts.
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4 thoughts on “10 Key Ingredients To Insanely Shareable Content”
Nice round-up piece, Michael.
Evergreen content is always going to do better over a sustainable period of time so I think it’s important to understand this and create appropriately, critically if the content objective is SEO or traffic based.
Thanks Stuart, you are absolutely right. I mean I know it’s tempting to write an article about “what Taylor Swift can teach us about content marketing” but chasing these short-term spikes in google traffic is not the recipe for long term success. Although I actually think Taylor Swift is a brilliant marketer 😉
Enjoyed the article of course but item #1…long form content.
Since you publish across many online platforms, what have you found works best in terms of content length?
What about matching content length to the platform?
I believe it depends on the platform that you’re publishing on. LinkedIn, for example, I’ve found that shorter 500-600 word posts work pretty well.
Question: If you have an article that is more than 500-600 words but want people to see it on platforms that favor shorter form content, would you kind of tease it there with a CTA to the larger piece on your web site?
Or would you just cut it down to fit the optimum word length of the platform where you’re posting?
Curious to know your thoughts.
Hi Mark, You make an excellent point. I believe you should match the content length to the platform. Interestingly, I have found longer form articles doing better on Linkedin and my analysis of some of the top posts on most sites shows that longer is better for text-based articles, but video and infographic content have the highest engagement rates and shares. So I think it really depends on the topic, the audience, the platform and everyone should test what works best for them.
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