What Actually Makes Content Shareable?

Laura Ginn

Google is always talking about how what they want their search engine to present to its users high quality, shareable content. The Panda 4.0 update to Google’s search algorithm was designed to further help them to do this, by focussing on rewarding content that is relevant and interesting. We have said a lot on this blog about what makes content high quality and why this is important, and also about what makes content genuinely original, but what, for many people, is a harder question, is just what makes something on the web ‘shareable’?

Photo by Jason Howie
Photo by Jason Howie

We all know what we are trying to aim for when it comes to writing shareable content – stuff that people will want to share via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other social networks. All kinds of content can be shared, so this doesn’t just apply to written articles but also to images, video, and podcasts or other audio, but since our area of expertise is written web content, we will stick to discussing that here. What makes an article shareable?

Quality First

Before you consider anything else at all, the quality does have to be there. A well written, well researched article may not necessarily be shareable, but a badly written or incorrect one definitely won’t be. Make sure everything you produce is written to a high standard, and meets the golden rule of being either informative, entertaining, or both to your target audience. This is absolutely the first gate to get through if you want to create stuff people will want to share.

Why Do People Share Things?

So, you have your quality in check, now it is time to think about making that content something people will want to share. Here, you have to put yourself in the place of the reader. While they may enjoy reading your article, they will only share it if they think it will be interesting or entertaining to other people in their networks. This means it has to be something that helps solve a problem, which introduces some new information, which contains some interesting opinions on a topic and sparks debate, or which is just especially entertaining.

If your brand lends itself to funny content, this can be one of the easiest ways to be shareable, especially on Facebook, where people tend to share things for fun rather than because they are professionally relevant (such as they might do on LinkedIn). If you can make your article humorous, this gives it a much stronger chance of being shared.

If humour doesn’t work for your brand or target audience, raising a question can be a good way to promote sharing. You can challenge a popular idea and encourage debate, or you can simply put forward a new idea or opinion and lead a new discussion.

The other way to make your content more shareable, is to provide news. This can be industry news, news about a product or promotion, or even just general new information you happen to have before it is all over the web.

Making content shareable requires going a little way beyond simply making it good, but it is well worth putting some thought into it as it can be one of the most powerful ways to spread the word about your site or business.