A few years ago, social media shares were a footnote to most seo techniques. Now they’re a force to be reckoned with. In the US at least, social media shares ousted link-building as the biggest contributor to Google rankings during 2012
So, if you hadn’t already, now’s the time to start paying serious attention to your social channels. As well as allowing your users to share on the ‘big 3’ – Facebook, Twitter and Google+* – b2b marketers will find a ‘LinkedIn Share’ button useful for targeting professional communities, too.
So how do you create content that people want to show each other?
1. Write content that fuels conversations
People share content that they want to talk about. It’s the basic motivation for users to click ‘share’, and there are practical ways to exploit it. What are people talking about in your industry? What’s your take on it?
A great place to source shareable ideas within your business is around the proverbial water cooler; ask people usually disconnected from the content-making process, technicians or product people for example, what they’re talking about.
Personal, first-person articles work better than authorless corporate pieces in social. It’s a space for individual voices, after all.
2. Always write direct, easy-to-read headlines
Your headline is key to deciding whether or not a user shares your content, because it’ll be the most visible element of your page on their profile or feed.
If it’s relevant, experiment with writing a bold first-person heading. Bottle the essence of your piece in 5-10 words. Write so that, on headline alone, a user’s friends can clearly understand the thrust of your article.
Always avoid jargon-y, convoluted headlines – bad practice for digital anyway, but even more so for social media. Difficult headlines are excluding for users who don’t get the language, so even people who do understand your jargon won’t be inclined to share, because their friends can’t relate to it.
It’s also worth considering that on Facebook and LinkedIn, your headline becomes link text. If people don’t understand where the link will take them, they won’t click on it.
For example: have a look at the most-shared articles on Facebook during 2011. The headlines are mostly less than 10 words. They’re in plain language and easy to digest. Some of them address the user directly using personal language; ‘Stop coddling the super-rich’, or, ‘Why you’re not married’.
It’s easy for anyone to make a comment on these articles based on the headline alone!
3. Be clever about how you promote
If you’re very lucky, your article will blaze through the social media-sphere as users share, re-share and re-re-share organically.
But most of the time, it’ll need a bit of a push – which is where promotion comes in. The problem is, most social platforms don’t give you much room to manoeuvre.
How to sell an article on Twitter, when you’re limited to 140 characters? Once you’ve included your link, you’ll only have around 100 characters left.
That’s really not long enough to surmise the article, or reel off the benefits of reading it. What’s more, if your goal is to garner retweets, it’s a good idea to leave characters free for users to add an intro of their own when they retweet, customising it for their followers and adding value.
Ideally, then, you need a miniscule 50-character sell for each piece of content.
One option here is to think like Hollywood… write a tagline. As Walt Disney said, ‘always leave ‘em wanting more’:
Timing and placement are also factors to consider. Beyond crafting individual tweets or posts, think about what time of day is best to deploy them, and how a series of posts fit together.
For example, an article about food is likely to make an impact at mealtimes, or just before.
Don’t be afraid to post your article a second and third time, either – you’re not ‘spamming’ people’s feeds as long as you tailor each tweet and make it relevant. Twitter feeds move so fast that you can’t expect an article to gain much traction if you’ve only posted it once. And vary your messaging for each tweet or update, so users who’ve already seen a post have another reason to click and share.
Finally, bear in mind your geographic spread of followers – social media is a global environment. A single tweet deployed while half the world’s asleep is only immediately visible to half of your potential audience.
How do you get your content shared? Leave a comment
*Surprisingly enough, Google+ recently overtook Twitter as the second-most-popular social network. Could this have something to do with its seo firepower? Plenty of experiments suggest that Google+ has by far the strongest effect on ranking… although few brands have a Google+ presence.