Chasing the Elusive Shareable Content

6-23-14 Frances Caballo Social Media Just for WritersI was listening to a webinar featuring Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzgerald, who now work with Canva, and Guy offered his definition of what constitutes shareable content.

Creating shareable content is the holy Grail of social media. If our friends and fans do share what we post, then there is little hope that we will succeed in our social media marketing efforts.

Before posting content on Facebook or Google+, Guy recommends that you place your content through the “re-share test.” Ask yourself whether your content is valuable, bold, informative or entertaining. Does it provide a useful analysis or does it assist people in some manner? If it accomplishes any of these goals, your content should be shareable.

Guy also asserted that controversy will make your content more shareable. I’ve always shied away from stating my positions on gun control, presidential elections, or hot-button issues such as abortion. Instead, I keep to my niche, which is very safe ground.

Finally, Guy recommends that you follow this template for your posts:

 •    keep your headline to 50 characters

•    keep the body of your post to three sentence

•    use active verbs

•    brevity is vital

When I wrote my blog post about Canva recently, I shared some pretty amazing statistics on how much faster our brains can process images versus text. Our eyes gravitate to images and increasingly tend to shun large blocks of black letters. This fact explains why increasingly we need to include images and video if we want our content to be “shareable.”

Does Controversy Trigger More Engagement, Really?

This week I decided to run an experiment on my Facebook profile. I shared an image on Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency and another image about gun control. Guy told us during the webinar that when he takes a stand on gun control, hundreds of people jump in with their opinion. He loves that.

Let’s look at my post on Hillary Clinton. No one Liked it, commented on it or shared it. So, I thought it would experiment with another issue. I posted an image of Richard Martinez, whose son was murdered in the recent shooting in Isla Vista in Santa Barbara, with his arms around Peter Roger, the father of the killer. The image represented their stand on tougher gun-control laws. This content generated eight Likes.

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Compare those results with a quote I created using Canva. This content received two shares, one long comment, and seven Likes.

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In my experience, questions that elicit personal or fun responses trigger the most engagement on my profile. For example, this simple post about what I did on a Saturday morning followed by a question generated 14 Likes, and four comments.

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Finding Shareable Content for Facebook Page Posts

I haven’t and won’t steer into political stands on my Facebook page. It would be hard for anyone, including Guy, to talk me out of sticking to my main topics: social media, publishing and writing.

Even on this page it can be difficult to predict what will trigger engagement. This very simple quote by William Faulkner reached nearly 1400 people and generated 153 Likes, comments and shares.

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This quote by Maya Angelou, posted right after she died, reached 173 people and generated 26 Likes, comments and shares.

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I thought this image was amusing and had hoped it would generate some shares, but it didn’t. It reached 152 people and generated just six Likes.

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I also share what I consider to be valuable content. For example, I include links to my new blog posts, inspiring TED talks and other bloggers such as Joel Friedlander and Jane Friedman. These posts typically reach about 50 – 200 or fewer people and rarely generate a Like even though the information is informative, helpful and in some cases entertaining.

How Do We Really Know What’s Shareable?

Let’s return to Guy’s criteria for shareable content. He said the content needs to be valuable, informative, helpful, are entertaining. But isn’t it difficult to predict whether others will find information as valuable as I do or as entertaining as I do? The “re-share test” that Guy discussed can be elusive.

Are preemptory re-share tests necessary? On Facebook, I look to Insights, Facebook’s free analytics feature that shows me what works and what doesn’t. By returning to the metrics I can, over time, predict what content my audience prefers.

For example, even though my emphasis is on social media for writers, my audience prefers quotes from writers about writing. Even though Guy Kawasaki can trigger hundreds of comments by taking a stand on gun control, my friends are unwilling to do so.

Before you wade through all the potential sources for content and try to decide what to use, review your timelines, retweets, and Google+ shares. Even without using a metrics program, you can get a sense of what does and doesn’t work with your particular audience. In the end, that is the only re-share test that is infallible.

About the Author: Frances Caballo is a social media manager for writers and author of  Avoid Social Media Time Suck: A Blueprint for Writers to Create Online Buzz for Their Books and Still Have Time to Write, Social Media Just for Writers: The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books and Blogging Just for Writers. Presently, she is the Social Media Manager for the Women’s National Book Association-SF Chapter, the San Francisco Writers Conference, and the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association. You can find her on FacebookTwitterLinkedInPinterest, and Google+. 

Practical Tips for Marketing Your Books on the Social Web

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