Content creation is probably the most important marketing tool you have. But it is not a good tool unless that content is getting shared – a lot. You’ve heard this many times before, too. Content must educate, inspire, or entertain. You need great headlines; you need to humanize yourself; you need to develop relationships with your target demographic; you need to research; you need to run the analytics….on and on and on.
You also know why content sharing is important for you. It brings more visibility for your brand; it increases direct traffic and it builds your reputation on social media.
Rather than repeat all of this, how about we look at the types of content that have the best ROI in terms of shares? In other words, let’s look not at what content you create but, instead, how you package it so that it has a better chance of getting shared. Here are the 8 types of content that have the highest rates of shares. As you consider them, however, you must also consider the publishing platform you will be using. “How-to’s,” for example, are great for YouTube and Pinterest but not necessarily for Instagram.
There are some stats that point to the types of content most shared. Buzzsumo recently did a lengthy study of shares, and its results have been shared by lots of other sites and blog. Some of those stats are as follows:
- Lists have the highest share rate – 22.45%
- “Why” posts get a rate of 22.32%
- Videos had a rate of 18.94%
- “How-To” posts received 18.42% of all shares
- “What” articles earned 17.88% of shares
Within these 5 categories, however, there are other packaging factors to consider. Digging a bit deeper into content reveals some important types that are more likely to result in shares. Keep in mind, though, that, while analyzing the most shared content can reveal commonalities of content types, there is no guarantee of sharing success just by using them. As a Hubspot report recently stated, viral posts are really insightful outliers. Given all of that, however, let’s look at the commonalities.
1. Provide a Surprise or a Shock
Put that shock or piece of surprising information in your headline, and then follow it up with details, images, and data. Here is an example of such an article from the London Evening Standard last November.
This certainly excited readers enough that it received 983 thousand shares! And it had the elements that were critical for a “surprise” – a great headline, a visual, and, of course, a story that reported the results of the research that came to this conclusion.
2. Take Advantage of a Current Trend
The recently released Star Wars episode is a great example of a new trend, and it did not take brands very long to begin to leverage it. Here is an example from CoffeeMate:
Here is another example from Fox News – a new story about an upcoming Zombie Cruise.
It received 1.5 million Facebook shares.
Using trends to promote your content can certainly get you many more click-throughs. To get the shares, however, you will have to continue that trend throughout your content and provide some value for it to be shared. Again, there are no guarantees.
3. Be Inspirational
Perhaps you have an inspiring story to tell about a customer or a team member; maybe you just want to post an inspirational quote of the day that will spread your brand as people share it. Nathan Chan, founder of Foundr Magazine¸ has an extremely active Instagram account. By posting at least 1 inspirational quote a day, often 2-3 of them, he grew his shares from 0 to 110K in five months. Here is just one example – and he does this every day!
He also runs contests for free subscriptions and, in order to enter, viewers must re-tweet and do several other things to share his content.
Headbands of Hope, a for-profit company that supports children with cancer by donating headbands to little girls and contributing to cancer research, tells inspirational stories of children and their parents, along with wonderful photos. Lots of shares to promote the cause.
Sometimes inspirational stories and quotes can be put in list form – remember, lists are really popular.
4. Use Animals and Babies
We don’t want to use the word “exploitation,” especially when it comes to children, but there are some great ways to create content with both of these. Many businesses put images of pets into their content, and who has not viewed at least one of those Facebook videos on the rescue and transformation of a poor dog. Granted, these are usually for charitable organizations that need donations, but businesses use animals too. The Geico Gecko has his own Facebook Page:
As does the Aflac Duck:
5. Amuse People
If you can find creative ways to entertain folks with humor, the likelihood of shares increases substantially. Jack Daniels promotes its brands with viewer-submitted weird bar stories and contests for photos of the strangest bars in the world. The stories are posted with thousands of shares.
Here’s an example of a humorous and satirical story published by The New Yorker that received 1.4 million shares on Facebook.
6. Quizzes – A Frontrunner
You’ve taken them – admit it. They are all over, and people love to take them and then share their results with their communities. If you can come up with unique and fun quizzes and then get your logo or brand name (and a link) into the initial image or as the questions pop up, you have a brand visibility that could go pretty viral.
PlayBuzz ran a quiz on “What is Your Most Dominant Character Trait” and got 3.9 million shares.
It was followed by another quiz on guessing the level of the reader’s education level. PlayBuzz does a great job of getting quizzes that go viral, but this does not mean that this always happens. Eyesocialeye.com, for example, ran a color quiz which had a huge viral response. Subsequent quizzes, not so much.
Most types of interactive content do quite well, and there are great tools to easily create it now. Even, a video has gotten into the act with interaction. Phillips received an award for its interactive video in which viewers can select one of 5 beards to finish the story – it went totally viral and won a Silver European Effie to boot.
7. Reveal Secrets
If you work “secrets” of anything into your content, related to your products or services, you have a potential winner. Pair it with a “how to” video and you have a good chance of catapulting your shares.
The “Secrets of…” posts are widely popular and shared – everything from secrets to keeping your floors shinier, to healthy relationships, success, and living longer. If you were a law firm, for example, there are lots of “secrets” you could share in our content – the Secret to Avoiding Probate; if you are a financial planner, share the “Secret for Becoming a Millionaire by age 50” – there’s one that will be shared all over the place. If you are a clothing retailer, how about the “Secrets for Successful Office Casual Dress for Millennials.” Think about your product or service, think of information that potential customers may not have, and put the word “Secret” in your headline. Then write an engaging piece of content that will satisfy their curiosity.
Buzzsumo reported some “Secrets of” content that went viral in 2015.
This next one does have the word “Secret” in the title but it is implied- it reveals something the reader probably does not know but will also probably share. These are all health-related posts on Buzzfeed. Check out the shares.
8. A Chart for Content
Buzzsumo has created a chart for viral-potential content based upon its research of the most shared of 2015. As you create your content, keep this chart handy to see which components you can include in it.