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How to Maximize Your Content's Reach on Social Media

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It's not tough to publish on social media: With a few clicks you have a post on Facebook, a tweet on Twitter, or a video on YouTube.

The tough part, as you know, is getting found, viewed, read, liked, and shared—and doing it without annoying people.

Here are some ideas to think about, along with "how to" tips and tactics that should help you get your content found.

1. To Share or Not to Share

Understanding Why People Share

Why do you share something you have read on social media? Probably for one of the following reasons:

  • You believe that others will want the information: Your mom might like that recipe, a colleague might want to read a post on a new app, etc.
  • You care about something and you want others to care about too: When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, there was a relief fund; you shared because you wanted others to get involved.
  • You want to entertain others or provide a bit of inspiration.

Look at those purposes for sharing. They are not selfish ones: You want to be useful; you want to get the word out about something important. Others who share do so for the same reasons. So, the same approach should drive your content:

  • Provide information that will let them be useful to their communities if they share it.
  • Give them content that, if shared, will make them look smart for sharing it.

Understanding Why People Don't Share

You don't share content for specific reasons:

  • It might not be true.
  • It would be a bit embarrassing if you shared it.
  • It goes against your beliefs or viewpoints.
  • It is too aggressive, pushing you to do something or buy something.

Others who don't share content have the same objections.

Make sure that you...

  • Use and name your sources of information; they should be reputable.
  • Don't make your content a direct sales pitch; offer value.

Do You Read Content That You Do Not Completely Understand?

  • You may not understand all that you read; however, some of it you do understand and really like. Do you share it?
  • You also may read only a part of a post or article and decide that it is really useful, so you share before you finish it.

Others do this, too. So, when you create content that you intend to publish on social media, here is what you can expect:

  • Even if a reader does not understand it all, if s/he sees value in it, it will get shared.
  • Readers will be engaged by your title and very simple content.

Extending your reach on social media means getting your readers to share with their own audiences. Getting that avalanche started depends on your content's being valuable in some way.

2. Curiosity, Surprise, Excitement... What You Are Going For

What people find really interesting, amazing, curious, or exciting... they tend to share. How that informs and drives the content you write depends on your target audience. If you know your audience well, you know what will pique their curiosity or what will excite them. Beyond that, there are general emotions that people experience as they read.

And here's the thing about those emotional reactions: People tend to read content that brings out all emotions, positive and negative, but they tend to share content that is positive.

People also have uncertainties. If you can clear up an uncertainty for them by sharing something informative, you are a bit of a "hero."

Here are some suggestions for appealing to emotions in titles and content.

Put Some "Emotional Triggers" in Your Titles

You know how important titles are to engaging and attracting readers. You want them "catchy," but you also want to use them to trigger some emotions. Think about these two title examples:

  • 8 Strategies for Increasing Shares on Social Media
  • How I Increased Social Shares of My Content 204% in 5 Months

The second one triggers emotions of curiosity, interest, excitement, an awe—and it will be read.

There are some great title generator tools available, and many are free. You simply enter your topic and get a long list of title ideas. With some tools, you may also enter the type of title you want—serious, shocking, humorous, emotional, etc.

Trigger Words

There are emotional triggers that you can place in your content as well, by using specific words and phrases; "your competition," for example, is a big trigger phrase. (See more about effective trigger words and phrases that research has discovered.)

3. Make Engagement and Sharing Seamless

Sharing is easy on social media sites. You need to make it just as easy from your website and your blog. This means a few things:

  • Pick your poison: Where is your audience? Those are the few sharing buttons you will use.
  • Choose your placement carefully: Think about this. Where is the best place to have those buttons? Neil Patel says those sharing buttons should be scrolling down with the reader, and his own testing confirms that's the best approach.
  • Don't be shy: Ask your readers to share your content. You don't have to be pushy or aggressive, but you can say things like this: "If this was helpful to you, please share with your community." Do that with every post, every article, and every email that includes content.

4. (Multi)media—Use It!

In the past, media meant photos, an occasional infographic, and maybe a short video. Content providers didn't get too creative, because adding complex media meant hiring someone who could code and spend hours creating a single image or infographic. Things have changed. Even Twitter now allows images.

Experiment with photos, animation, infographics, interactive surveys and polls, quizzes, and videos.

5. Get Your Times Right

When and Where to Post

A lot of research has been done about when your target audience is online and where it is at different times of the day and night. If you use that research, you will know when and how often you need to post something. This infographic breaks it all down for you.

Don't re-invent the wheel with all kinds of testing and analytics; use what has already been researched for you. That said, you'll likely need to make adjustments based on the behavior of your own audience.

How Often to Post

Scheduling of postings is very channel-specific. If you are posting a teaser and link to some content on Twitter, you cannot guarantee that your audience will see the first or even the second time. Better to schedule the same Tweet several times. Recommendations for Facebook vary, but there is general consensus that you should post at a minimum of every two days. For really good insight into posting schedules, Dan Zarella has a timing graph you can use.

Go Forth and Multiply—Your Shares

Extending your reach on social media is all about getting your audience members to share with their audience members.

If you can nail down exactly what content your audience will likely share, how to appeal to their emotions and use emotional triggers, how to make sharing easy to do, and when to publish for best effect, you will get the dissemination you want.

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John Unger is a writer and blogger based in Manchester, the UK.

Twitter: @johnungerr

Google+: John Unger

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