During my conversation with Kurt Abrahamson, CEO of ShareThis, on this week's episode of Marketing Smarts, I asked him what his company had learned about increasing the shareability of content.
He said that the company didn't exactly study what made people share specific pieces of content but looked at what increased the amount of sharing activity on any given site.
Here are Abrahamson's three suggestions on making sharing part of your site's very structure.
1. Choose an open platform instead of a closed system
"Sharing has become, I think," Abrahamson said, "a little bit viewed as a commodity at the publisher level." Publishers will often go for the cheapest or easiest sharing system—just adding the obvious buttons, for example. And if they have the wherewithal, publishers often will create their own sharing apparatus.
The problem is that, if you just use the Big Three (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) or your own setup, you are locked into those specific systems. On the other hand, if you use an open platform that incorporates a wide range of sharing options, you give people more sharing avenues and you get a more comprehensive view of how sharing happens across many networks and, more importantly, across the many publishers using the platform.
(I realize that ShareThis is just such a platform, which would certainly be one reason that Abrahamson advocates this approach, but I also think it makes sense!)
2. Offer the ability to share across a wide range of services
People want to share. That's a given. And if you give them the ability to share via Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, then that's where they will share.
Nevertheless, people belong to a much broader range of social networks than that triumvirate. According to Abrahamson, "Users will share across more channels if they are given the option to do so."
Think beyond the Big Three. Make it easy to share on Tumblr, Pinterest, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Digg, Blip, Blogger, etc., and your audience will share there as well.
3. Put floating buttons over fixed locations
In addition to giving people as many sharing options as possible, you should also make it easy for them to find these options. For this reason, Abrahamson argues for letting the sharing buttons float alongside the content, rather than placing them in a fixed location at the top or the bottom of the content.
If people care enough to share, you shouldn't make them hunt around for the tools that will let them do it!
People Don't Surf, They Share
In a recent piece in the New York Times called, "The Death of the Cyberflaneur," Evgeny Morozov pointed out that the central behavior of the early web—surfing around and exploring---has all but disappeared. In its place, we have a web that is divided between pure function ("the app paradigm") and socialization on sites like Facebook, where everything we consume has been shared (with a "frictionless sharing" representing Facebook's ideal state).
While Morozov's piece is a kind of lamentation (a lamentation with which I sympathize), his article also highlights the role that sharing plays in the online world and describes how sharing emphasizes its increasing centrality.
Is there a better argument than that for making sharing as easy as possible on your site?
(Photo courtesy of Bigstock: Four Children)