Friday, March 22nd, 2013

Don’t You Dare Share This Article

Don’t You Dare Share This Article
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If you want people to really like and share you, you need to know where you want the reaction to lead to, play with button positioning, push times and other variables, and, most of all, provide great content

Stickiness is a funny thing; despite obsessing over it, we’re still largely ignorant about how it works. This goes double for the web, where countless marketers are under the misapprehension that they can post any crap they want, and that people are so hopeless, aimless and soulless that they’ll immediately share pointless drivel.

While I can’t give you a single cure-all for getting others to spread your content, I can provide a dose of common sense. The following three points are worth considering if you want to improve the reach of your content and messaging. They don’t guarantee success, but they substantially improve your odds.

Make it easy to press that button

“Like” buttons, and their brethren, are the ass-rot of the internet. These things that emerged so innocuously are now ever-present and continually interrupting our use of the web. Thankfully, those “Share This” buttons (circa 2008), which jammed dozens of unsightly, often unrecognizable, options in front of us have largely gone the way of the dodo. My pet peeves aside, selective use of share buttons can prove useful in building an audience.

Part of using them effectively is to get out of the “more is more” mindset. Select the networks that might provide the highest yield for your particular kind of content. Determine what action you most desire from your audience: Do you want them to give you a thumbs up, or would it be better to have them commenting or subscribing to updates?

And, while we’re on the topic of being selective, I really have to ask: Why are you putting share buttons at the top of your content? Do you really expect your audience to share something they haven’t even read yet? Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, but in order for me to “like” something, I need to actually like it.

Then: experiment. What happens if you use only one share option? Do you have higher conversions when share options slide in at the end of the post? Do they work better when placed at the halfway mark in your content? While I believe that having a few logically placed options will yield better results, marketing is rarely that open and shut. Try different things and keep an eye on your analytics.

Start messing with the variables

Some have spoken/written about the best times to push out new content. Personally, I’ve never found such opinions to add up to much, even if they are backed up by statistics. Sometimes less-proven approaches will perform beautifully. My suggestion is to play.

Create content with different headlines to see what takes. Push things out at different times to see if there’s a pattern. While I’ve never identified a formula that yields good results every time, some approaches work for certain jobs betters than others. And while advice is generally well intentioned, it can also be misleading. You need to find your own path.

And, don’t fall into the trap of believing your only options for building traffic are Facebook and twitter. While important, these social networks are saturated; meanwhile, sites like Reddit, StumbleUpon and others can drive huge traffic. It doesn’t really matter where the traffic comes from. If you have good content, visitors will inevitably push it to the major networks on their own.

Create “sharable” stuff

I’ve saved my most important suggestion for last. You can put as many “share” buttons in your site as you’d like. You can give away big, fancy, prizes. You can beg and plead for people to tell their friends about your stuff. Little of this holds a candle to simply creating great content.

Look at it this way: Star Wars with shitty marketing still would have been a hit. No amount of buzz, however, would have saved The Adventures of Pluto Nash. Make good stuff, and people will talk about it.

A lot of this comes down to asking a few fundamental questions. Before bothering to share anything—or, for that matter, creating it—ask whether it’s something worth making. Is it interesting? Is it useful? Does it teach us something we didn’t already know? Is it a secret we’re dying to hear? Might it inspire us? Could it move us or change how we see things? Do you find it interesting?

Better yet, ask yourself whether you would pull this thing out of your pocket and show it to your best friend, while out for dinner. If the answer is “yes,” keep going. If it’s “no,” ask yourself why anyone else would share it.

This article originally appeared in Applied Arts Magazine.

Follow @karj to hear about these posts first.

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