As every journalist knows all too well great online content doesn't always attract the readers it deserves. Alas, spending ages carefully crafting a story and sourcing brilliant images isn’t a direct route to a large and influential readership.
Sadly there is no magic formula for creating content that goes viral, but there are several things editors and publishers can do to push content to a much wider audience, especially via social media. Here are five top tips for maximising social shares.
- Invest more time in social media - The obvious way to get people reading content is to amass a significant following for your brand/publication is via social media. If you have 100,000 followers on Twitter, you can pretty much guarantee that, at the very least, a small proportion will take a look at the story. There are several ways to build a social media following, including investing in social advertising, but the obvious and least expensive way involves the hard graft of posting regularly and taking time to interact with your social audience. It might sound painful, but if you commit to working hard at Twitter, posting content as well as retweeting other people’s tweets, you will build up an audience that will translate into readers for your own content. Ultimately this will then deliver more social shares and even more readers.
- Think editorially about your shares - One of the cardinal sins that some brands commit in social media is to automate all their shares so all that appears is the headline and the link. There is nothing wrong with having some content posted in this way, perhaps using a service like Hootsuite to ensure it goes out at a certain time. However, automated content has very little personality and is less likely to be shared. So in order to maximise your chances of getting shares you need to start thinking editorially about the content you are sharing. For Twitter you have a limited number of characters, but more than enough to compose a tweet that is imaginative and engaging. Ask yourself what would make you click on the link?
- Add images and video - Thinking editorially about your tweets and Facebook posts isn’t all about carefully choosing words, it also extends to clever use of images and videos. Attach a suitably striking image to your tweet and it is more likely to catch people’s attention and then get shared. The same is true on Facebook where there is a lot of evidence that people respond much more to image based posts than they do to vanilla text ones.
- Share new content multiple times - Don’t make the assumption that once you have shared something on social media you can't share it a second, or even a third time. This is especially true for Twitter where, with a little imagination, you can share posts multiple times without annoying your followers. Firstly, on Twitter if a person follows a lot of people and brands then they are less likely to see every tweet, so they may even see your third plug for your content and think it is the first as they have not seen the other two. Clever tweeters also think of different angles to put on a story and will also retweet when someone else has retweeted one of their tweets . Finally savvy social media managers share the same story several times in a week. Firstly when the story is originally posted, then a few days later, and finally as part of a round up at the end of the week.
- Use content discovery engines - Finally if you have invested in a piece of content that includes high quality video, expensive images or runs to a lot of words and you want a wider readership it might make sense to use a discovery engine. CMA partner Outbrain offers publishers a service where they can drive traffic to a certain post for a fee per referral. It guarantees traffic and not social shares, but the more people who see your post the higher potential it has to go viral. If you are going to consider using Outbrain, or indeed one of its rivals, then ensure that you spend a little time working out how to get the best from the service. It is all very well driving someone to a post on your site, but you should then make sure you get value for money from that referral by making it easy for that reader to move on to content similar to the story/video etc that they have just consumed.