Think about the last article you read. How did you find it? More likely than not, a friend shared it on social media and you clicked.
Over the last several years, researchers have collected and analyzed content in order to nail down the qualities that make something sharable. These studies show that we are essentially wired to share content that we feel is valuable to others. Value can be determined by whether the content is helpful, amusing, or interesting. We also noticed these studies placing heavy emphasis on the importance of headlines that give as much specific information about the content as possible. So, your best bet at a sharable piece is content that either reveals new facts or statistics, touches our emotions, or teaches us how to do something, and is topped with an optimized headline.
Why we Share
Everything we do on social media goes into building your online “face,” right? We share content that we feel reflects our ideal version of ourselves. According to UCLA Psychologists, we actually have an inherent desire to share information that we feel others will appreciate. That passing of information is satisfying – it’s an ego boost and affects us the way citations affect a research paper. We attempt to build our own credibility toward our online persona by sharing content that is perceived as credible (content that’s already been shared, links to authoritative sites, or includes research).
When we asses a piece of text, we analyze it for sharable qualities. According to the study, content that is “helpful, amusing or interesting” is passed on from person to person.
What Makes Content Sharable?
We pass along the pieces that meet our threshold for social sharing:
- valuable to me
- valuable to my friends/followers
Researchers at UCLA found a correlation to these sharable qualities with specific regions of the brain. This means the content we consume has to fulfill a certain function in order to stimulate the parts of the brain that compel us to share. Let’s break down these helpful, amusing, or interesting qualities in content that makes people think, “I’ve got to pass this on!” Whether you’re writing an article or reading a piece and deciding whether or not to share, consider this checklist to help demystify the sharability factor:
How to Make Content Sharable
If you’ve gone through the checklist and ensured that your piece delivers on one or more of the above criteria for sharable content, there are a few more measures you can take to increase your chances of sharability.
Researchers in France report that 59% of shared URLs are never even clicked. People just share content based on the headline. The writers of this study call the shared content that goes unclicked “silent URLs.” In fact, they found that 15% of all shared iterations they collected were silent.
So – consider that reality as you craft a headline. Think, “If the headline is all people will see, what do I need to include to get the point across?” It’s a good practice to write all of your headlines under these theoretical conditions. If that one phrase is all you get, what does it need to say?
- Be Specific: Name the newsmakers. If you’re presenting a list or a certain number of things, reveal that in the headline. That way, potential readers can gauge how much time they’ll have to spend reading the piece, and if you’re transparent about what’s behind the headline, you have a better chance of getting clicks.
- “Researchers Hunt for the Cause of Smelly Feet”
- “Seven Types of Bacteria that Make your Feet Stink”
- Give Results: When you’re trolling for clicks, don’t bury the lead – throw it right in the headline.
- “New Research Reveals 20% of all Feet Stink”
Take the work out of Sharing
Make it accessible and easy to share your content. If a share button is in plain sight, readers are more likely to quickly share the content.
- Use social sharing buttons and place them in as many spots as you can. Next to the headline, on the sides and gutter of the page, at the end of the piece, etc.
- Use sharable pictures and embed social posts throughout the piece.
- Share your piece in the right place and on the right days for maximum viewership.