7 Hacks
Good content resonates. It crosses editorial lines and finds an audience in places you may not expect. But “good” content doesn’t necessarily mean “shareable” content. Useful ideas, valuable resources, and well written copy are a must, but a good percentage of your audience is in a hurry, and the factors that go into the sharing of content are often very different from what makes that content good in the first place.
A significant percentage of content on Twitter for example is shared without having been read. People will retweet interesting topics and evocative headlines, not necessarily articles they have read and enjoyed. eBooks are downloaded based on the bullet points and headlines you give them, not the content that goes into writing them.
And while every piece of content needs to follow through on the promise made by its publisher, none of that matters if you can’t get it to your target audience.
To help make wide distribution a reality, here are 7 hacks that will ensure your content is as shareable as possible.

1. Convert Your Content to a List

I’ve been in an ongoing battle with a member of my podcast team about this – do people like lists more or less than other types of content? The answer, fortunately for me (because it backs up my opinion) is yes. List-style articles are much more shared and share-ready than other types of content (hence the number of them on my blog).
How much more so? Here are the results of a study run by Buffer and CoSchedule by Garrett Moon:

Most Popular Words & Phrases in Highly-Shared Headlines

Image Courtesy: Buffer/CoSchedule

More than 11% of the headlines in their survey (out of more than 7,000) were list-based. The next closest performer was the “you” focused content – another quick hack to engage readers.
Here’s the easy part though. You don’t need to brainstorm 37 reasons Linux is better than Windows for your next article. Any article can be presented as a list with a few small tweaks. Write your content with quality in mind and then tweak it when done to make it into a list that will be better suited for sharing.

2. Create a Header or Infographic in Canva

Visually appealing content performs better. This means clean sentences, lots of white space, ample use of H2 tags (which go great with a list format) and images.
The last item can be a bit of a roadblock though. Finding good images that are free or inexpensive is hard. Which is why I love Canva (and sites like it). Canva provides free backgrounds, text creation, and some stock photography for your blog posts and social posts.
Every header you see on this site is from Canva and they take only 2-3 minutes to create. Well worth the time and a huge boost to the content in making it more visually appealing.

3. Research the Top Hashtags for Your Topic

Before you start writing, research which hashtags are trending on Twitter, review recent hot articles on LinkedIn, and check for highly-viewed videos on YouTube. This is the content people are sharing right now.
Don’t necessarily write your article around these topics, but make sure to weave them in and when the time comes to promote your content, use them liberally. The key here is timeliness. Most hashtags will trend for 1-4 days at most. So be prepared to research, write, and promote your post in that time frame if you want to take advantage of this resource.

4. Create a List of What’s Being Shared via BuzzSumo

Another way to leverage the success of others in the development of your content is to research the most shared content in your niche via BuzzSumo.
BuzzSumo allows you to see what received the most shares for a specific search term or phrase. So if I type in “content creation” I will see this:
Which is why I’m writing this post right now. I also keep a log of my own posts to see what people share the most on Twitter or LinkedIn. Far and away my most popular tweets have been related to growth hacking and productivity. I write about a lot of things, but these are now at the top of the list when I run low on topics.
It’s not to pander to my audience, but to get the most value out of the content I write and to engage my audience with the content they’ve already said they are interested in reading.

5. Break Content into Shareable Chunks

A good piece of content can be used in a dozen different ways. Create with this in mind. Include images that can be shared independently of the article. Create slideshares of the content, build an infographic, or create ready-to-tweet quotes in your articles.
Some blogs will even provide a “tweet this” link within content to help people share it more actively from the blog.
Yet another reason why list articles do so well – they can be broken into their core components and shared independently or they can be expanded to provide an even higher level of value to your readers.

6. Hack Your Headlines

In the age of big data, we know better than ever before what types of content and what topics trend better than others. Unsurprisingly, it’s the human element that resonates best.
For example, here’s a breakdown of the topics that had the strongest shares in their study:

Topics Covered in Highly Shared Headlines

Image Courtesy: Buffer/CoSchedule

Food, Home and Lifestyle made up 85% of the topics listed. People want to read about things that directly affect or benefit them. Even in the business and technology fields, the articles that do best are those that find the human element in their presentation.
Whether your content is developed with this in mind or is written in a vacuum focused on a given topic, adjust your headlines to match. Focus on how it affects your readers, what the benefits of that content are, and what you can provide them in that specific timeframe.

7. Get into the Head of Your Readers

The University of Pennsylvania performed a study that analyzed thousands of pieces of content in an attempt to determine what psychological triggers induced people to share.
There were a number of things that shared content had in common, specifically:

  • Positivity – People like sharing positive content. Whether it’s a puppy in a laundry basket or a story of adversity overcome, these stories are worth sharing with others.
  • Amazement – If something elicits a sense of awe or wonderment, people want to share that feeling with their social circle.
  • Helping/Newness – Sharing content is a way to create stronger connection with other people, and one of the best ways to do that is to provide something that help or that is new. Being “first” to share an interesting story can give someone a good feeling.
  • Core Beliefs – If a story echoes the core beliefs or convictions of the reader, it is much more likely to be shared.
  • Creates a Strong Feeling – Whether it’s a feeling of awe, happiness, or vindication, people will share content that creates a strong feeling in them. This includes controversial topics.

If you know what your target audience is looking for and what types of reactions you want them to have, you can create content that will elicit the above emotions and get you more shares.

How Many Shares Can I Get?

Getting people to share your content isn’t necessarily easy, but if the content is created with the above 7 steps in mind, and you focus on producing quality, value-laden pieces, they will be ripe for viral distribution.
Of course, that’s not all there is to it. You need to be proactive in getting the word out. Contact thought leaders in your niche, comment on other blogs, post frequently to social media and work towards building an audience. These things are a must when creating content or it will sit in its vacuum and do very little.
But if you do things right and spend the time needed to generate interest, your content could be a the top of those share lists before you know it.