Search engines, like Google, are working hard every day to become less of a constantly-updating index of all online content and more a curator of the best (or most relevant) content, much like that helpful librarian that always has the perfect book recommendation.
Yet no matter how hard Google works at being helpful in that regard, however, people will probably always trust recommendations from other people to the recommendation of a computer. That is why word of mouth, either the old-fashioned way, face to face, or through social sharing, is always going to be more powerful than just plain ol' SEO.
The lesson? Make you content more shareable and you'll bring in more and better leads. In fact, making your content more shareable is arguably more important than SEO. Imagine both shareability and SEO combined? You'd have content that can rock your B2C or B2B market for years to come, giving you a stellar content marketing ROI!
But how do you make your content more shareable? Do a quick search and you'll find tons of advice, much of it bad advice (or good advice in general, just not good advice pertaining to shareability of content). So where can we turn for help?
Well, we trust that local librarian's recommendation because we see him/her as an expert in the field of what books people should read. So why not turn the experts of shareability and viral content marketing to glean some pointers.
For this article, we turned to Jonah Berger, a marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and bestselling author of two amazing books about content marketing. One of those books, Contagious: Why Things Catch On talks specifically about how to make content more shareable and more likely to go viral.
In that book, Berger highlights six components of highly shareable content, which he labels STEPPS to help us remember. Let's zero in on two of those six components now.
Component #1: Tell a Story
Who doesn't like to hear a story? Who doesn't like to tell a good story? Stories are naturally contagious. And, in fact, we could almost say that stories are part of what of means to be human.
We've been telling stories to one another since we were all covered head to toe in hair. We painted stories on cave walls, danced them out to a drum beat, and gathered around campfires at night to share them. Throughout history, stories have been central to most societies, from traveling storytellers to stage plays to musical ballads to TV and movies and video games.
We. Love. Stories. It's as if stories are part of our DNA.
Stories are fun to tell, too, aren't they? From jokes to fishing tales, we love telling stories just as much as we like hearing them. That's why, when you hear a great joke (which is usually a story at its core) you can't wait to share it with someone that hasn't heard it yet.
So what if you could bake stories into your content? It may be a personal experience or someone else's story, or even a cast study or interesting narrative taken from history. Build your content around a story and you'll find your audience dying to share it with someone else.
Of course, not every piece of content can include a story of some kind (although you'd be surprised how many could), but if you add more stories to your content, you'll definitely notice an increase in social shares, as well as word-of-mouth traffic.
Component #2: Add Emotion to Your Content
Take a look at all the viral videos of the last decade, and you'll notice a common component that nearly all of them have: emotion. They make us feel something.
Many are stories, like we talked about in the last section, but even those that tell little or no story, they are shared because they provoke an emotional response in the viewer. That emotional response makes people want to share because they want the video to touch their friends, family, and workmates the same way it touched them.
Can your content do the same? Can it have more emotion? Can it provoke strong feelings in readers/viewers/listeners, making them want to share that emotional experience with others? If so, your content will instantly become much more shareable.
There is a special warning when it comes to adding emotion into your content, however. Not all emotions provoke a desire to share. Some emotions, in fact, may make your content less shareable, so you'll want to steer clear of those feelings.
Take, for example, sadness. Videos or articles that are sad or depressing don't usually go viral. Why? Because, when something makes you sad, you probably don't want to share that thing with others near as much as you do when you see something happy or exciting.
The same is true with something that is overly calm and relaxing. If a certain kind of content, such a video, makes you feel very relaxed, you may enjoy the calming experience, but you won't feel motivated to share it with others.
Other emotions provoke action. They stimulate us, motivate us, and make us want to share with others, perhaps even starting a conversation about the content. What emotions do that? How about excitement. Or joy. Even anger can make people share. Recent videos capturing tragic police violence went viral, not because they make us feel sad. They make us angry, and we want to share and give our opinion on those controversial issues.
Add more emotion to your content, and add the right emotion, emotions that motivate people to action or get people talking, and you'll program shareability right into your marketing strategy.
Shareable Equals Free Marketing
If you can add stories to your content, even with every tenth content asset, and if you can add strong emotions into your assets, emotions like happiness, excitement, fear, and anger, you'll make your content more shareable.
And what is the benefit of that? The more your content is shared, the more eyes will see it. And those are eyes you didn't pay to see it. They found your content, not through paid advertising or even as a result of SEO efforts, but because your audience is moved to share what they read/view with others.
In other words, the more shareable your content is, the better your overall ROI will be, since you'll be getting free marketing and advertising through all of those shares, online and off.