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This guide will walk you through 4 steps to drive more social shares on your content. These steps are tailored to work specifically for your community! 

I've run dozens of social content experiments over the years specifically to figure out what makes people want to share content on social media channels. Years ago when few brands had big social ad budgets and many large brands were still skeptical and just getting their feet wet, I had a laser focus on figuring out how to get our client's posts significantly more viral reach from social shares.

Before we get to the steps, here's a quick summary of what I've learned about why people share content:

Comedy is relevant to everyone


People share funny posts more often. The key is that whatever comedic content you're posting  needs to be relevant to your brand. For example, a few years ago I found a way to tie cat photos and warnings about topical online threats together for an anti-virus brand by using photos of cats that looked like they were using computers, tablets, and smartphones. The cat photo was related to the content of the warning about an online threat. Those posts weren't promoted and they were shared thousands of times each


People share topical content on current events that directly affect them 


People are way more likely to share something that affects them and their friends, family, and co-workers. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that people share content that they care about, not content that your brand/company/shareholders/employees care about. 

This is the reason that I was experimenting with tying together the popularity of cat photos and topical warnings about online threats. The threat warnings were already one of our client's most shared types of content, because they were topical, solved a problem, and they directly affected our client's customers. By leveraging two different types of frequently shared content in a relevant way, I was able to drive even more shares from each post.

If you take just one thing away from this post, it should be this: People care about content when it directly affects them, when it solves a problem they or people they know are facing, and when it is actionable.


How Can I Make this Work for My Social Channels?

Step 1: Use these insights as a starting point to experiment with posting content that meets these criteria:

  • The content is topical and/or relevant to your customers
  • It's actionable, it solves a problem and it's easy to follow, ideally with step by step instructions
  • It leverages humor that is relevant to the content and your brand (optional) 

You should also include a call to action asking people to share your post. This will help, but it will only be effective if used with content that people will already want to share.

Step 2: Analyze Your Results. You'll want to figure out:

  • What happened? Did you get more shares? Did you get as many as you expected?
  • Why did that happen? This is key, if your experiment was wildly successful but you don't know why then it doesn't help you. Really dig in and try to figure out why you got the result you did. Once you have a good working theory you can test it to learn more.

Be sure to write all of your insights down, as you'll need to remember them for the next steps.

Step 3: Test your theory. Now that you have an educated guess at why your community either did or didn't share your posts more, design an experiment to test that theory.

  • Reflect on your earlier results. If you singled out something you did as the likely reason for more shares, emphasize that in your second experiment and see if you get similar results. 
  • Avoid contaminating your results. If you didn't promote your first posts, don't promote the second round, if you targeted a certain group within your community for the first round, target that same demographic again for the second. Your goal is to eliminate as many variables beyond the ones you want to control, to make sure that there isn't some variable that you didn't consider that is effecting your results.


Step 4: Build on your results. Over time as you perform more of these experiments you'll learn more about your community and the content that they love and hate.

The true value in these individual experiments is combining what you've learned to create and curate content that's even more engaging for your community.

By running multiple experiments to learn more about what drives your community to share content, you'll learn more about the various reasons they have for sharing and you can combine these insights to take your experiments to new heights!

This will lead to some amazing results if you stick with it, analyze your experiments, and continue building on your latest insights consistently.

Post by Zachary Chastain
May 5, 2015