Sharing is caring. It’s cliché, but oh so true. While share counts may not be directly tied to your social media and content marketing ROI, many brand publishers measure the success of a piece of content by how many shares it gets.
In earlier posts we’ve talked about the psychological motivations behind what makes people want to share. We’ve also covered how to get in your audience’s head to find out what they want you to share (in other words – what they’re most interested in). For this installment of the sharing series, we’re focused on helping you make content easy to share by formatting it. These are all the tips and tricks of formatting and timing that have been shown to make a difference.
Apply even a handful of these, and you should see a nice 5-10% lift in share counts. Expect even more of a bump if you combine these tips with the knowledge and tactics from the last two “get more shares” posts.
Of course, you should always be tracking the ROI results on your content, too. Though we love big share counts, it always comes back to ROI for us.
1. Add those sharing buttons!
I’m sure you’ve noticed them. All the sharing icons or buttons next to every blog post. Sometimes they’re right below the headline. Sometimes they’re in the footer area. You can see our social sharing buttons just to the left of this sentence, hovering in the margin. Click on a few to see how they work.
Whichever plugin or tool you use for your sharing buttons is up to you. We like DiggDigg (that’s what you’re seeing to the left). But some sites favor Shareaholic or AddThis. What’s best depends on your needs and your WordPress setup.
2. Get the headlines right.
This applies to every social media update, from blogs posts to Facebook to YouTube. Writing headlines is an art, but here’s the ideal character length of a headline for each of the major social media platforms.
- Twitter: 71–100 characters
- Facebook: 40 characters
- Google+: 60 characters
- LinkedIn: 80–120 characters (16-25 words)
- Subject lines for emails 28-39 characters
Want more insights on How to Create Perfect Headlines for Social Media Posts? See social media expert Pam Dyer’s recent post on that topic.
3. Get the images right.
“The visual web” is a popular term right now. It points to a trend so powerful that in a few years we may not even be referring to “the visual web”… the web may be visual by default.
As you probably know, social posts with images get shared way more often than text-based updates. Here’s just a few of the many data points supporting that.
This is a segment of the infographic, “It’s All About the Images” by MDG Advertising.
Here’s just one more chart that shows which kinds of images work best for blog posts. The image is from Social Fresh, based on data from Quick Sprout.
Bonus: Use video.
If the visual web is hot, then video is white hot. On almost every platform, videos draw eyeballs and keep them glued to the screen. Here’s how much videos boost engagement on Facebook:
4. Get the content format right.
Ever noticed how many lists there are online? There’s a reason for that – they get shared like crazy. So does content that answers “How”. Quizzes and infographics do well, too.
Which content format does best depends on which study you reference, but it depends even more on your audience and which platform you’re promoting the content on. I especially like this chart from a study done by BuzzSumo. It shows which formats do best on which platforms:
5. Get the timing right.
When you share can have a huge affect on your results. For instance, I get the bulk of my retweets late in the evening, from 8pm to 11pm. So while I still tweet throughout the day, I tend to use that special time to promote content I want to get the most attention.
Timing also includes day of week, of course. There have been a number of studies done on which day of the week is best. Here’s one from Noah Kagan:
The data here is interesting, but take it with a grain of salt. Every study of what’s the best day or time to share has a fatal flaw: It wasn’t done for your audience.
Your audience may be active at a different time than the average social user. They may also gravitate to different social media platforms, like Tumblr instead of Facebook, or Pinterest instead of Twitter. That will further skew when is the best time to reach them.
Test as much as you can, or just check your social media analytics tool to see when your content tends to get the most shares. It’s usually pretty easy to see the sweet spot.
6. Get the length right.
While headline length matters, so does the length of the body of your post, tweet or update. Here are the results from the very popular and widely-shared infographic from SumAll, “The Internet is a Zoo: The Ideal Length of Everything Online”:
And so as not to leave anyone out, that same infographic recommends 16-25 words for LinkedIn posts (aka updates – not pulse posts.)
As always, take these “ideal lengths” with a grain of salt. What works best for general audiences may not work best for you. And just to show you how one study varies from another, check out Fast Company’s round up of the ideal lengths for social media updates.
7. Include hashtags.
This won’t work for every platform (namely LinkedIn and, according to some, Facebook) but almost everywhere else, using a hashtag or two can give your content a lift. Here are the recommended number of hashtags for each platform:
Twitter and Google+: 2-3 hashtags
Facebook: 1-2, if you use them at all
Instagram: 11 or more hashtags
Pinterest: 1-2 hashtags
Tumblr: 3-10 hashtags
8. Use open graph tags
“What’s an open graph tag?”
It’s a bit of code embedded into your page that activates when someone tries to share your content. Open graph tags are put on the pages of your website. They get you more shares because they let you to format how your content appears when it’s shared. They make it easier for people to just click a link and have a nice-looking thing to share, instead of having to cut and paste and fuss around.
“Sounds cool. But do I have to code these tags?”
Nope. All you gotta do is install a plugin. I recommend Facebook Open Graph, Google+ and Twitter Card Tags.It makes setting up open graph tags a snap. It’s also free, widely used, and updated very frequently. That means it’s likely to work when the social platforms change their setups, which happens almost once a week. If you can get that installed and fill out a few simple text fields, you too can reap the benefits of open graph tags.
What do you think?
Those are my best tips. What’s working for you? Have you made any formatting or timing changes to your social media updates lately that caused a spike in shares? Tell us about it in the comments.
Image by Niklas Wikström