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What needs to be in content that attracts traffic on social media and elsewhere

In a world where content is king, a large volume of high-quality, shareable content is required to build credibility, brand reputation, and grow your digital presence. However, successful content marketing is not measured in the amount of output you produce, but in how well your audience responds to your output, including how often they share it. After all, the more fans and followers who feel compelled to share your blog piece, Facebook post, infographic, video, image, etc., the more value that content inherently adds to your brand. 
So, what makes great content share-worthy? Unfortunately, there’s no defined formula for successful viral marketing, but there are several significant similarities between the most popular pieces of content that compel viewers and readers to click ‘Share’. Want to make your content more share-worthy? Here’s a checklist of things irresistibly shareable content should offer your audience:
1. Industry Relevance
2. A Great Hook
3. Controversy
4. Solutions or Answers
5. The Right Medium
6. A Human Connection
Generating Buzz
3 Guidelines for Creating Content That Gets Seen and Shared
  • Louis Foong’s piece “The 8 Most Effective Types Of Content” not only tells you how particular content types fare with readers at large but also offers a wealth of interesting data about content marketing and how it’s valued by marketing professionals.
  • And if you’re interested in learning what types of content perform best on social media, read Andrea Lehr’s recent blog post on HubSpot.

It makes little sense for brands to create, share, or publish content that is not related to their field of expertise or of relevance to their target market. Understandably, content that is directly relevant to your brand is more likely to appeal to your target audience. Your readers will be less inclined to trust or care about your perspective on a non-industry topic, and posting off-topic content sends a confusing message that can tarnish your brand’s identity. You can also capitalize on industry-relevant content by including a special incentive for your fans to share your post with their own social networks—perhaps a discount or deal to encourage more users to share a particular piece of content.
The number one reason someone might share your content is that it truly entertains them, and somehow stands out amid the mass amounts of content they’ve already encountered today, both online and in the real world. If a reader doesn’t find your blog piece to be engaging, they won’t feel compelled to share it with any of their followers or contacts. However, if it does immediately pique their curiosity or stir something deep inside of them, they likely won’t think twice about clicking ‘Share’. A good benchmark is simply to be honest with yourself about whether you would share this piece of news or content. If you, the creator or curator, are not interested, then your followers won’t be either.
In addition to boasting entertainment value, share-worthy content can also be somewhat shocking or edgy in order to attain that elusive viral buzz. While good quality entertainment is likely to be popular among those already interested in the subject matter, a more controversial piece of content can appeal far beyond the reach of your industry-specific following. In order to go help your content go viral, it’s not enough that a number of viewers simply enjoy your video; the majority of your audience must be provoked, startled, shocked, or otherwise intrigued enough to share it across various social networks.
Perhaps a more utilitarian approach to creating successful content, ideally in addition to offering entertainment value or controversy, is to provide solutions for common problems faced by your target audience. If your content is truly useful and insightful on an important subject, your readers will want to spread that knowledge and insight with their social circles. Content that directly answers popular questions will also have a better SEO ranking, thus boosting its potential visibility. Make it an easy choice for anyone debating whether or not to share or retweet your post—your content should create value for the individual sharing it by establishing them as a resource for up-to-date, relevant, and useful information in the eyes of their peers.
Whatever medium you select to share your content will inevitably leave its mark on the message itself. Whether you prefer posting pictures on Instagram, links on Twitter, videos on YouTube, or articles on LinkedIn, it’s important to choose the social platform that makes the most sense for the type of content you’re producing. Posting hilarious Buzzfeed-style lists of GIFs on LinkedIn might seem like a great idea, but it is not going to garner much of a positive response—or respect—from your LinkedIn contacts or followers. Format is a huge aspect of your message, so be conscientious about where you post and promote certain pieces of content.
Last but not least, share-worthy content must succeed at forging a real connection that resonates with your audience.  It should not only relate to your industry in an interesting way, but also relate to your audience on personal level. There is often an honest human element found in viral content that is both meaningful and memorable. By posting content that sparks a connection, your brand becomes more humanized in the eyes of your followers. For example, an interest piece about an underdog success story in your industry or a blog post highlighting your brand’s most recent charitable activity can both appeal to the emotions of your audience and capture their attention. Appeal to emotion through something positive, inspiring, and unexpected and your audience will be more likely to respond by sharing your content to spread that positive feeling.
Although there is no surefire way to guarantee your content will go viral, you do have the power to ensure that your content is high quality and meaningful enough to be shared. Generating a healthy buzz around your content will increase brand visibility, popularity, and expand your fan base so that it becomes possible for all future content to reach an even wider audience.
You could create enough great content to fill a 10-terabyte hard drive but it wouldn’t do your brand much good if nobody saw it.
Here are three essential guidelines for creating content that will actually get seen and shared:
1. Inject your content with practical value.
Marcus Ho, Co-founder of SocialMetric, defines content with practical value as “content the audience can immediately act upon easily, without having to spend too much effort or money.” In his piece “3 Foolproof Ways to Create Contagious Content,” Ho writes that readers will be “psychologically compelled” to share your content when it contains practical value. “As human beings, every single one of us is socially wired to help others. And content with practical value provides that reason for your audiences to help others.”
Helping your readers improve their business is what great content and practical value are all about. This means you need to understand your readers—not just the keywords and topics that attract their attention online but also their challenges and pain points … their organizational goals and functional objectives … the industry trends and developments affecting them. Without these insights, you can’t possibly inject practical value into your content.
Helping your readers improve their business is what great content and practical value are all about.
2. Publish your content in the right formats.
Like all of us, your readers prefer to consume content in particular formats. Some gravitate toward reports and research papers. Others prefer short articles, blog posts or infographics. Among younger audiences and those who work on mobile devices, video is a highly popular form of content. And these are just the tip of the content iceberg.
One of the best ways to know for certain which types of content your readers prefer is to survey them or ask them directly. But if you’re looking to expand your audience or understand general trends, here are a few helpful sources:
3. Distribute your content via the right tools and channels.
Your readers also prefer certain tools and channels for receiving content. Again, survey them or ask them directly to learn what their preferences are. But if you’re looking to spread your content far and wide, Buffer’s Kevan Lee offers some truly sound advice in his post “Your Content Everywhere: The 17 Best Tools To Get Your Content Its Largest Audience.” In it, he identifies the three types of content distribution channels (owned, earned and paid media) and then offers brief overviews of some of the most effective tools within each channel.
Columnist Jayson DeMers also takes on the topic of effective content distribution in his Forbes article “Are You Missing This Critical Element In Your Content Marketing Initiative?” One piece of advice from DeMers: be sure to optimize your content for search, particularly mobile search. “The principles of good SEO must be applied to every piece of content you write, and not just as an after-the-fact addition,” he writes. “It’s also critical to start adopting a ‘mobile first’ mindset as you create and distribute your content: How and where will your audience be accessing your content? What types of content do your mobile readers prefer?”
Remember, great content is only great if it’s seen and shared. Follow these three guidelines and your chances of success will soar.
Editor’s note: This post is a follow-up to another post, “To Put Your Brand in the Spotlight, Get Cracking on Content.”
About the Author: Michael Civiello is a communications strategist and senior writer at fisher VISTA. He is an expert at creating compelling messaging, content and PR campaigns that build brand awareness and marketplace reputation.


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