How To Get More Social Shares Without Annoying Readers
People like people who are similar to them: Getting shared on social media exposes your content to your perfect audience – friends of your current audience.
Shares may directly and indirectly benefit SEO: This is only going to increase in the future.
Every time you write a new post, you share it on the social web.
It’s unfortunate, but most Twitter and Facebook feeds look like a graveyard – no likes, comments, or shares. That’s because no one shows you how to use social media properly.
I want to share with you the strategies I have used to maximize the number of social shares I get from each post.
Why is this important?
You need to stand out: Facebook users share 2,460,000 pieces of content per minute. Don’t get lost in the sea of posts.
Read and take notes. Implement the step-by-step strategies I’m about to share.
Here’s what I’ll be going over:
- Understanding the Psychology Behind Social Sharing
- How to Create Content that Triggers Emotions
- Removing the Friction Behind Sharing and Engagement
- Why Asking for Shares Is Important
- How to Use Images Effectively to Get More Social Impressions
- Why You Need Custom Titles and Descriptions
- Writing Headlines with a Curiosity Gap
- How to Share Your Own Content When Your Readers Are Online
You won’t get these results overnight, but I promise you’ll get better results than you’re getting right now, and one day in the not too distant future, you’ll have the social presence you’ve always dreamed of.
The Dangers of Annoying Your Readers
If you really want to maximize your initial rate of social shares, come up with an irresistible title, and put a social content locker so that no one can see the article until they share it.
The only problem with that is that 99.9% of your audience will be annoyed and dislike you for it even if the content is good. They won’t share future posts, and they probably won’t even read them.
You will have short-term success, but you should really be aiming for long-term success.
You can also use pop-ups to force the issue, but you’ll run into the same problem. Also, if you’re going to use pop-ups, there are more important things to ask for in most cases than social shares (like email addresses).
So what’s the solution? It’s possible to achieve the same great short-term social media results (sometimes better) but to do it in a way that also enables long-term growth.
It starts with these 8 ways to get more social shares on your website.
One caveat: Not all niches are built for social sharing. If you run a website about depression or a similar topic, it’s going to be much harder to generate any significant traffic.
1. Understand the Psychology Behind Social Sharing
Here’s the thing: you can’t really trick users into sharing something on social media.
Readers are the gatekeepers of their feeds because it reflects on them personally, and they spend a lot of time sculpting the appearance they want.
This means that you need to understand what content people share and why they do it if you want them to share your content regularly.
The New York Times Consumer Insight Group conducted a rigorous investigation into why people share content. While there has always been speculation, this investigation really gives us hard data to base our social media strategies on.
They conducted in-person interviews, hosted a one-week long sharing panel, and then surveyed 2,500 heavy online sharers.
They found out why people share content online and broke it down into these 5 motivations:
- To entertain or enrich the lives of others: 94% of people who share think carefully about how it will impact the lives of their connections.
- To define themselves: 68% of sharers say that sharing content helps them to show what they care about (to themselves and others).
- To network/grow relationships: People like to feel involved. That’s why 73% share content because it helps them connect to people with similar interests, and 78% share information to stay in touch with people in their networks.
- To feel a sense of purpose: 69% of people share because they feel more involved in the world. Who doesn’t like having an impact on other people’s lives?
- To support a brand/cause: 84% will share content that supports a cause they believe in. It may be a person, a message, or a product.
Notice that only one of these motivations is about the sharer themselves. Other than supporting a brand or cause they love, the motivations all center around connecting with others and feeling useful.
Psychology Tip #1: Help your readers connect with others.
How can you do this?
- Make them look smart: Publish high-quality content on the latest developments in your niche (studies, news, etc.). For example, What SEO Used to Be Versus What SEO Is Now.
- Make them useful: Publish content that is actionable and solves important problems (of their friends). For example, What Are The Best Times to Post on Social Media.
- Make them look cool: Publish content that makes it look like readers are connected to someone cool (you!). For example, How Spending $162,301.42 on Clothes Made Me $692,500.
Psychology Tip #2: Readers need to trust you before sharing.
No one will share something that might make them look bad. If you come across as sketchy, uniformed, or pushy, you won’t gain the trust of many readers.
How do you get readers to trust you?
While it’s not exactly simple, there are a few main things that you should do to make visitors trust you:
- Back up your points: You’ve noticed it on Quick Sprout, Crazy Egg, and KISSMetrics – I back up all points with credible references.
- Give value: If you’re pushing products and services from the get-go, you’ll push away readers. Instead, write blog posts without constant sales pitches, and give away information (white papers, Ebooks, etc.) or tools (like Quick Sprout).
- Showcase social proof: When possible, show how you’ve helped readers like them by displaying testimonials, or demonstrate why you’re an expert by showing where you’ve been featured.
- Additionally, high social share counts make readers more likely to share a piece of content.
Psychology Tip #3: Keep it simple
Did you know that most people don’t read a full post before sharing it? This chart from Upworthy shows that over 50% of their shares come from people who have read less than 50% of an article:
What this means is that a significant number of sharers quickly decide if the content is worth sharing based on the headline and introduction (remember that Upworthy posts are usually short).
If your content is complicated, it’s hard for a user to determine if it would make them look smart or help someone they know. I’ll go into headlines in more depth soon. Heres a couple of samples:
Simple: 7 Studies that Show Red Wine Is Healthy
Complicated: Epidemiological Studies Show That Red Wine Has Some Possible Benefits and Negatives, but Only for Certain People
Those are fairly extreme examples to illustrate the point. Make it easy for your reader to understand what you’re writing about.
2. Focus on Creating Content that Invokes Curiosity, Amazement, and Surprise
It’s not enough for content to just be written or formatted well if you want readers to share it.
Jonah Berger, in his New York Times bestseller Contagious: Why Things Catch On, boils down sharing to 6 key elements.
We’ve already looked at one—social currency—but emotion is also one of the pillars of sharing. Your content has to have an emotional effect on your readers if you want them to share it.
In 1980, a psychologist named Robert Plutchik created a wheel of emotions that describes all the emotions people have. You can see Plutchik’s wheel below.
Essentially, each color is a different basic emotion. Each layer is a different layer of intensity. For example, rage (in the center) is more intense than anger, which is more intense than the outer layer of annoyance.
There are also advanced emotions, which are listed around the outside of the wheel. They combine two emotions into one. For example, anticipation and joy together create optimism.
Fractl conducted a really interesting study of viral images. While you and I don’t typically rely on just images, the results are still applicable.
The team at Fractl broke down the emotions behind why many top images from the popular image site imgur went viral.
It’s a little hard to see, but there were 5 emotions that came up far more often than any others:
You’ll also hear about other emotions or aspects of content behind sharing such as being unusual or remarkable. But these are just the same basic emotions in a slightly different light.
Overall, would you say those are positive or negative emotions?
Isn’t that strange? After all, go to the homepage of any news site and you’ll be hard pressed to find stories based on positive emotions.
It turns out that people are attracted to negative stories just as much (maybe more so) than positive stories, but they are much more likely to share positive stories.
While there are some exceptions (like news of disasters or outrage over incompetence), you should focus on content that evokes positive emotions for the most part.
Let’s look at some examples…
1) Interest: While these other emotions are pretty universal, everyone has their own unique interests.
It makes sense that you would have to find content interesting before you would share it. It also typically pairs with at least one other emotion that we’re looking at.
Take the post How Shopify Grew 10X in 3 Years (and How You Can Achieve Similar Results) as an example. If you’re interested in building a successful company, particularly a SAAS, this is going to be really interesting to you even if it does not surprise or amaze you.
2) Curiosity: If you ever want examples of great headlines that make you curious, look at Buzzfeed or Upworthy.
I’m not recommending you start going overboard with it, but getting readers curious about your content is necessary for them to not only read it but also to share it.
Let’s say you run a corporate blog or are thinking about starting one, and come across this headline: No One Is Going to Read Your Corporate Blog (Unless You Read This).
Are you going to read that? You bet you are: it makes you curious, and it’s also interesting to you because of your situation. Assuming you enjoy the post, you’re also fairly likely to share it.
3) Amazement/Astonishment/Awe: All of these emotions are very similar. There are 2 common ways that this can work.
People can be amazed at the topic itself, like in my post I referenced earlier – How Spending $162,301.42 on Clothes Made Me $692,500.
People can also be amazed at the content as a whole, like The Beginner’s Guide to Online Marketing. In fact, all of my guides fall under this category. They are so complete, so full of value, and so useful that readers are left in awe. That guide has been shared well over 1,000 times and has attracted links from over 135 domains.
4) Uncertainty/Surprise: Ever come across an article that left your jaw dropped because it was so unexpected? Curiosity often pulls you in, but the surprise is what leaves you feeling excited during the article or at the end.
For example, when you read that I ignored marketing when building Crazy Egg and KISSMetrics, you were probably surprised. You might have been so surprised that you wanted to share this feeling and revelation with like-minded marketers.
Taking it a step further, if you can combine a curiosity-driven post with an unexpected (delightful) surprise, you have a winning formula on your hands.
Take my post How I Generated 518,399 Visitors and 16,394 Leads from 77 Webinars. You’re probably curious and interested in it, but there’s no real surprise or uncertainty of how I did it.
If I wanted to include an element of uncertainty, I could have changed the title to “How I Generated 518,399 Visitors and 16,394 Leads with an Underrated Tactic”. In this case, I felt the impressiveness of the results from only 77 webinars outweighed the impact of a surprise.
Use trigger words to stir up emotions. Those examples we just looked at were mainly based just on headlines. While that is an important aspect, and we’ll dive into that later in this article, your content itself also needs to connect with readers on an emotional level.
Trigger words are words that people associate with emotions. You read something like “overcome” and think of all the challenges you’ve faced and how you successfully dealt with them.
Here are some trigger words for health and hope:
But, realize there are trigger words for all emotions, so choose your words carefully.
Also remember that the most viral pieces of content will invoke more than one emotion.
3. Remove the Friction Behind Sharing and Engagement
A Wharton business study revealed that there are four basic types of social sharers.
Going even further, these sharers can be divided into sub-types. Some will find a great article and write-up a thoughtful description before sharing, while others feel that’s too much work.
It’s generally a good idea to remove friction behind sharing. This is a concept in conversion optimization that means that you want to make it as easy as possible for a reader to take a ‘good’ action.
To do so, you can add social sharing buttons to your website around your content.
i). Adding sharing buttons to your website: It might seem simple, but many sites out there have never bothered to test adding sharing buttons to their posts. In addition, there are right and wrong ways to do it.
If you’re a large enough company, it probably makes sense to hardcode these buttons into your site to minimize the effect the buttons have on your loading time.
Otherwise, there are many great options out there, both free and paid. Most have both a WordPress plugin and standalone code for any other website.
Here are five popular WordPress options:
- WP Socializer
- Digg Digg
- Share This
The actual button design doesn’t really matter as long as the network it belongs to is obvious.
ii). Choose a good spot for the buttons. Unlike banner ads, having social sharing buttons in a predictable location is good.
As we saw earlier, most sharing happens at the beginning and end of articles. You should have buttons available at both the start and the end.