With over 409 million people viewing more than 23.1 billion pages every month on WordPress alone, internet users have nearly unlimited opportunities to share content. However, with business blogging steadily on the increase, competition is tougher than ever to create content that resonates with readers strongly enough to encourage sharing on social networks.
Shareable content is the holy grail of content marketing success. Why? Because shareable content not only gives you access to thousands of new potential customers, but it also boosts your domain authority and brand awareness through referral traffic – which can ultimately improve your Google search ranking. Research shows that websites with blog content have 434% more indexed pages, making it easier for the right audiences to find and share your content with like-minded consumers.
It stands to reason that shareable content has common characteristics. By examining some of the most shared pieces of content in 2017, copywriters and content marketers can apply some of these tools and techniques to their own content and marketing copy.
1. Spark interest and surprise
To create content that audiences want to share, marketers first need to understand the psyche of their readers. Research from The New York Times Insight Group claims that 73% of people share content to nourish personal relationships with those who have similar interests.
As humans, we’re intrinsically programmed to seek validation from peers and colleagues – and we are more likely to share information we think people want to see. Therefore, it is important for marketers to stay current on recent trends, breaking news, and what key social influencers are saying, and being first to share this content amongst their friends and groups on social networks.
If your content has an element of surprise, this also helps to boost social shares. Surprises trigger a reactive sequence in the mind, sending a “strong neuro alert that tells us that something is important about this moment and we have to pay attention,” explains Tania Luna, co-founder of Surprise Industries.
The Economists 2nd most shared post in 2017 was “The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data”. This article discusses the growing concerns of tech giants who believe data is the oil of the digital era. This outlandish statement caught most people off-guard, enticing them to read on. The use of key influencer insights and interesting assumptions reaches surprising conclusions, encouraging readers to share the article amongst their peers.
2. Share actionable insight
Creating truly shareable content is about being authentic and adding value to the conversation. Apart from social validation, one of the main reasons why people share information is that they find the information personally useful. Studies have found that 94% of people share content because they think it might be helpful to themselves and others. Every great piece of content out there has a purpose, and some of the most effective posts are those that encourage and inspire readers to take action.
Fast Company, an American business magazine, focuses on the daily exploration of technology, leadership and design businesses that are thriving in today's economy. By sharing innovative ideas and fascinating start up stories, Fast Company built up a strong collection of “How-To” blogs, encouraging readers to achieve greatness at work. One of their most popular blog posts in 2017 was “How To Be More Assertive At Work When That’s Just Not Your Personality”. By tapping into a very common problem, the writer breaks it down into a step-by-step approach that can be easily transferable, regardless of your chosen industry. Giving readers actionable content backed up by research inspires audiences to not only adopt the approach, but also to share the advice with others.
3. Power in numbers
With the average word count of Google’s top-ranking content falling between 1,140-1,285 words, it may be worth considering how your content measures up, numbers-wise. Inbound marketing connoisseurs Hubspot released data they collected on 39 of their most shared posts in 2017, with interesting results. They found the best performing articles’ headlines included either a year, a number, or were 9 words or less.
Research shows that no matter how you feel about mathematics, our brains are inherently tuned to pay attention to numbers. This is because when we read, we are subconsciously categorising information. If there are digits in a title, or listicles in the text itself, the mental heavy lifting has already been quantified and categorised for us upfront, making it more appealing to click and read on.
Content marketing blog and digital commerce company Copyblogger produced the article “20 Types of Evergreen Content that Produce Lasting Results for Your Business” which has accumulated over 1,100 shares to date. How? By packing it full of numbers, lists and listicles throughout the copy, which encourages audiences to share the content with other likeminded writers (guilty as charged). This article arms its audience with 20 different examples that they can actively use to build a catalogue of evergreen content themselves. Showing the readers what they’re receiving and the benefit to doing so upfront just from scanning the title increases the likelihood of sharing before they even read the first line.
While there isn’t a fail-proof formula for success when it comes to creating truly shareable content, understanding why we share information is a great starting point. As the backbone of every piece of viral content, writers must interest and surprise, evoke strong emotions, provide actionable insight and present content in a way that is accessible and easily digestible for the reader.