Social shares are one of the most valuable elements in any content marketing strategy. Getting your content shared gives your brand more exposure, which increases your relevance and reputation among your target audience. It gives more visibility to your social profiles, which can increase your social media following. It registers your brand as more authoritative in Google’s search algorithm, which results in you ranking higher in searches, and of course generates more direct referral traffic (as people click on the content that was originally shared).
If your content isn’t getting shared, you’re missing out on all these benefits, and your content is only seeing a fraction of its true potential. If you can figure out why your content isn’t getting shared, and correct the issues effectively, you’ll dramatically increase the impact of your campaign almost immediately.
In my experience, these seven reasons are the most common why your content isn’t getting shared:
1. You aren’t saying anything new. People will only share something if it provides them with new information, or a new take on an older concept. If you’re just rehashing something you’ve already written about, or you’re reconstituting a piece you read in the news three weeks ago, chances are you won’t be winning any points for originality. It’s not easy to come up with original topics — because the content marketing world has become so saturated with companies engaging in regular writing and syndication, it follows that the majority of general topics have already been covered. Strive for specificity, and look for the new when coming up with new material.
2. Your headlines aren’t powerful enough. If your headline isn’t powerful, most people won’t even click on your link. In fact, a strong headline can make people share your content without even reading it, as evidenced by NPR’s April Fools’ Day prank last year. Some content marketers suggest that you should spend just as much time crafting a good headline as you do the rest of the article, but I wouldn’t take it to that extreme. Just make sure your title is concise, emotionally charged, and as descriptive as possible with at least one action-based word to encourage more activity.
3. Your length is off. There’s definitely a “goldilocks zone” for the length of your content. If you only write a few hundred words, your content won’t have enough meat or depth to encourage your readers to share it. On the other hand, if your content stretches into several-thousand-words territory, people simply won’t have the energy to share it. Strive for the middle ground with content between 1,000 and 1,500 words. These tend to attract the greatest number of shares. However, don’t be afraid to venture into the extreme territory, either. Wait But Why, one my favorite blogs, regularly publishes articles in the 20,000–40,000 word range. They might as well be eBooks! The trick is to ensure that the content is top-notch quality; as long as your content is quality, the word count is less important.
4. Your information isn’t useful. Practicality is one of the biggest motivators for social sharing — for example, if a reader uses a how-to tutorial to improve his/her productivity, he/she might be prompted to encourage his/her friends to do the same by publicly sharing that article. Depending on what industry you’re in, it might be difficult to offer any practical information; for example, a manufacturing facility may not be able to produce content that’s useful to the everyday lives of the average consumer. Still, tutorials and how-tos aren’t the only types of practical information you can offer — you can also publish information that leads your customers to better-informed buying decisions.
5. You have no visuals. Visual elements are almost a necessity to influence a social share. Including just one image, or an embedded video, is sometimes enough to attract more attention and get a first round of people to share your material. It’s even better if you use visuals throughout your piece, or if your piece manifests in a purely visual form. Seeing is faster than reading, so the more concisely and the more visually you can present your content, the more shares you’re going to get. If you don’t have a visual, it’s all too easy to blend in with everything else in the newsfeed.
6. You offer no entertainment factor. I’ve already talked about the originality factor and the practicality factor of your content, but these are prerequisites for a “quality” piece. What people more often neglect is the entertainment factor. You’ll need to amuse, engage, or otherwise interest your audience through some means of entertainment. Depending on your brand, this could be humor, a unique style, a hands-on approach, or an open end to a direct conversation. Make your piece interesting.
7. You aren’t targeting the right demographics. Finally, remember that content marketing strategies can never focus on “everyone,” even though you might like to. In fact, the more specific your target demographic is, the better chance you’ll have at succeeding. People want content that’s especially written for them, so dig deep to get to know your average reader, and produce content that addresses his/her needs directly.
You can write good content and still have a sharing problem; the art of attracting social shares is separate from the art of writing a quality piece (though there is some overlap). Still, there’s no mathematical formula for social sharing success, and even if you follow all the best practices for social sharing, there’s no guarantee your pieces will go viral. Stay patient, stay consistent, learn from your past experiences, and don’t be afraid to make tweaks — the more you grow, the better chances you’ll have at getting the shares you need.