When was the last time you hit publish on a piece of content and immediately crossed your fingers hoping it would get shared? When was the last time that plan worked out?
That approach hasn’t worked for you, has it? It certainly hasn’t worked for me, either. We’ll spend countless hours creating an article, post, video, etc, only to feel like the crickets aren’t even interested in it (the jerks!) The problem is that often times we create content from the entirely wrong angle.
Too many content creators think, “how can I make shareable (or viral) content” instead of thinking, “how can I make really helpful or entertaining content?”
500,000 People Agree With Me, Getting An Article Shared Does Not Require “Growth Hacks”
A few years ago I wrote an article about a 30-day detox I took from social media. I can distinctly remember the 2014 version of myself sitting at my laptop and cranking out word after word for that article. I remember asking myself a few questions while I was writing what would become a 6,000+ word post:
- How can my experience not using social media help someone else?
- What did I actually learn from my social media break that I can share?
- I felt really great at the end of my detox, how can I help people feel that too?
- How can I make this article not suck??
Do you notice anything about those questions? None of them have anything to do with making that article share-worthy. None of them involve some viral growth tactic to get tons of shares, likes, RTs, etc.
And yet… That 6,000+ word article has gone on to be viewed by over 500,000 people since it was published.
Fancy charts are fancy.
There are a few things to note about that article that may surprise you:
- There are NO social share buttons (never have been)
- There is NO call-to-action to share the article anywhere
- There is NO freebie, download, opt-in, which incentivizes sharing
All things considered, I may as well have written, “don’t share this!” across the top and bottom of that article (obviously styling the text to match the yellow CAUTION tape you see at crime scenes).
So, why/how did that article get shared and how is this going to help you create content that gets shared?
First: Let’s talk about how to create shareable content by not thinking about creating shareable content.
If your intent is to create something under the guise that it will be shared you’ve almost already lost your battle to get attention from other people.
You need to create content that focuses on one or two things:
- Your content needs to be helpful
- Your content needs to be entertaining
- Bonus: Your content needs to be both helpful AND entertaining
You can play all the keyword research games you want but if your content doesn’t help someone or doesn’t keep them entertained while reading it, you’re donezo. And kudos to you if you use words like “donezo” in your writing.
There is too much content in existence on the Internet nowadays and we’ve all developed a strong bullshit radar for growth-hacky content.
Second: You must prepare your content for success (aka: do a tiny bit of SEO work).
Now… hold on. Don’t flip over your desk in anger about how much you hate SEO and how much it confuses you and makes you want to punch pillows ’til the cows come home (a saying that I believe is catching on).
(Hopefully this isn’t you right now.)
When I talk about preparing your content for success, I just mean doing a couple of simple things that put you in good standing with search engines:
- Writing a compelling headline (read: not click-bait, but interesting)
- Making sure you use H2, H3, H4 headings with your focus topic (keyword)
- If there’s a question to answer in your article, do it early and plainly
- Use a WordPress plugin like Yoast SEO*
*Obviously this only pertains to WP users. For everyone else, just skip this step.
If you want to dive deeper into my extremely rudimentary process for SEO, read the full guide I created: Everything You Need To Know From My Experience With SEO
The reason to think about SEO just slightly when you’re writing content is to set yourself and your content up correctly from the beginning. Read: Do the things Google wants you to do so it can find and share your content for you!
Third: You have to be patient.
Don’t aim for virality, aim for longevity.
For every single person reading this article (myself included), none of the content we create will go viral. And truthfully, virality should NOT be the goal. Viral content is a flash in the pan. It’s over and done with faster than you can blink, usually with zero long-term net gains.
However, long-lasting, quality content can continue on an upward trajectory. This is especially relevant if you create a piece of content, like my social media detox article, which was written before people started talking more and more about taking breaks from social media.
Thanks to my buddy (and SEO wizard) Brendan Hufford for helping me find this Google Trends graph!
You have to be patient with your content. My social media detox article didn’t start gaining organic search traffic and shares for months. In fact, it wasn’t until a year after originally posting it that people started to include a link to my article when they did a social media detox of their own and wrote about it.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I’ve had a handful of other articles follow the same pattern of how they took to get organic sharing and growth as my social media detox one:
- Start A Business With No Money: Took 2 years to gain traction
- How To Write A Pitch Email: Took 2 years to reach #1 on Google
- I Failed P90X: Took 12 months to get consistent readership
- How To Get Sponsorships: Took 18 months to land on page #1 on Google
There’s a recurring theme here and it’s that content worth sharing can take time to be found and to be shared. And again, none of those articles have share buttons, ask for shares, etc.
Here Are Your 5 Actionable Takeaways From This Article
Takeaway #1: Don’t set out with the idea to create shareable content. Create helpful or entertaining (or both!) content.
Takeaway #2: Unless you can prove to me that those god-awful share buttons cluttering up your beautiful website are working, it’s time to remove them. They do not work. Great content gets shared because it’s great, not because a few buttons make it easier to share.
Takeaway #3: You can set yourself up for success by doing a little bit of SEO work. Just a few small things! You don’t need to hire an SEO professional.
Takeaway #4: Patience is incredibly important. If you’re creating helpful and entertaining content, publish it, share it where you can, then move on to the next piece of content you’re itching to create.
Takeaway #5: I didn’t mention this anywhere else but it’s probably time you go back through your older articles and see if you can make any of them go from good to GREAT. It’s easier to improve something that already exists than it is to create from scratch.
Don’t share this.
Unless this article helped you. Unless it inspired you. Unless it motivated you and gave you actionable steps you can take on your journey to having your content shared.
Otherwise, onto the next article you have open in those 43 tabs in your browser.