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6 Tips for making your content more shareable

I’ve been writing pithy columns like these for a long time. And there will always be a place for short-form writing, as well as longer articles and stories, whether it is published on the Internet, on paper or both. But on the Internet, time is money. The basic user interface – touchscreens and mouse-based navigation – means that the user is an impulse away from getting bored with your content and moving on.

You can bemoan this fact, or you can adapt. Given the Internet’s Darwinian nature, the winners have either pioneered the new methods, or they’ve adapted. Everyone else is either catching up or has their head in the proverbial sand. I imagine this period is like the time a century ago when businesses broadly adopted telephones for communication. Can’t you just hear a starched-shirt and bearded boss insisting that he would continue to communicate with customers by written letter and not be bothered with this newfangled and crude device? This is another time like that.

Young person playing with a GameCube
Photo credit: Wikipedia

So without further ado – because there’s a good chance that I’ve already lost half my readers who wanted the six tips right away – here are some ideas for adapting successfully to this new reality:
  1. Don’t kid yourself that your audience isn’t like all other Internet audiences and will tolerate boring think pieces. The reason sites like Buzzfeed and Huffington Post thrive is because they know how to successfully capture our attention under the real-world circumstances of the Internet.
  2. There’s a good reason so many posts are titled “10 tips to do this or that.” People respond to numerals in headlines at higher rates than headlines without them. I believe it has to do with the definitive nature of a number – it allows the reader to instantly determine whether that content is worth the investment of a click and some browsing time. Consider the headline “Why Numbers Work in Headlines and Other Thoughts on Optimizing Online Content” as an alternative to the headline on this post. Just as truthful, but less specific and hence not quite as compelling in the fast-twitch online environment.
  3. Slideshows rock. They are an optimal combination of visual and written content. If I could post content using an easy-to-create slideshow function, I would do so more often. As it is, when I create a post on Facebook I often start with a link and its associated visual, then make a comment on it. There are many variations on the notion of mixing a lot of visuals with a little written content. Adopt and adapt the ones that work for you.
  4. Lists and bullets are great too. They also give the user an instant framework for deciding about their precious mouse-click investment.
  5. When you need inspiration, there is an abundance of models and templates on the web to give you ideas – you certainly don’t have to create content ideas from scratch. Some of the sites I find useful are Contently, Copyblogger and the Content Marketing Institute.
  6. You’ll also find a world of great ideas being posted to Twitter, especially if you search under hashtags such as #contentmarketing. I posted a list of 18 such hashtags on my personal blog.

Finally, make sure your content informs and/or entertains other people, and isn’t just a veiled advertisement for your business. When you provide useful information, people will feel compelled to share it with their friends and colleagues. People rarely pass along advertising unless it’s uniquely funny (or offensive).

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