How to Generate High Quality Shares on Social Media
A vast range of companies are currently attempting to utilise social media as a means of content promotion and brand awareness, and 2015 will see even more smaller organisations taking up the social media mantle. However, having a social media presence for the sake of it, or just thinking that you can produce constant spouts of viral content is not the way to approach social media. After all, even if you do have a piece of content that is 99% sure to go viral, if you share it at the wrong time, it could get lost into the black hole that is social media.
With this in mind, a large part of a successful social strategy is optimising not only the content you create, but also its shareability. Some people just have the ability to know when to share, whereas others require a little more strategy and thought behind their social media marketing.
Even though generating quality social media shares requires a lot of research into your target audience and can completely differ per company, below I have laid out a few guidelines that may put you on the right track to effectively gaining high quality shares on social media.
Know What to Share
Before you create your social media strategy, one of the major things you should already have done is develop your content strategy. By researching into your audience’s interests, you should already have a pretty clear view of what they want to see. If you are still unsure, ask yourself the following questions:
Would your audience thank you for it? – is this piece of content worth a literal handshake from your network. Think to yourself, is content so valuable that a person reading it would actively thank you? If you think they would, then you are on the right tracks.
Would you want to see it? – a great way to determine whether a piece of content will be a success is by asking yourself, and your colleagues, whether you would like to see it on your timeline? Many call it the Facebook test; basically, scroll down your timeline and see if the ad/post would fit, and more importantly, if you would want it there.
Would you share it? – the final question to ask yourself is would you, or your colleagues, share this piece of content. One huge way to expose your content to the audience and increase its reach is to generate shares. So the obvious question to ask here is, would you share it? If the content is something that you yourself wouldn’t share, then you can’t really expect your audience to do so either.
Scheduling Social Shares
Once a content strategy is in place, you can start to think of timings for the posts. Like I previously mentioned though, each company or individual will have slightly different optimal times to share, however, as a rough rule, below I have demonstrated an infographic shared by Fast Company that lays out the general best and worst time to post per network:
This is an extremely rough guideline as to when you should share, but there are actually tools to help you find out exactly when your audience is online the most, giving you an optimal time to share.
Best Time to Tweet
Using tools such as SocialBro, you can find out exactly when to share your content on Twitter. By entering your user handle on the software, selecting a sample of influential users, or likewise, selecting all your followers, you can access reports which demonstrate when your users are online and active, further providing you with an optimal time to tweet. Below I have demonstrated the heat map provided within the report.
Twitter has a very loose API, allowing much more in-depth research to be carried out. However, other networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram don’t generally have tools that provide this sort of information. Therefore, another way to test the success of a certain time frame is to schedule different timed posts, and then simply measure the engagement levels per post. Think of it as A/B testing, but on social media. Run the comparison test for a week, document the results in an excel sheet, then at the end of the process run an analysis of the engagement levels, i.e. shares, likes, comments, etc and then determine which time is best suited for your audience.
Structure your Posts Consistently
Humans are creatures of habit, and we like to know that we can expect something and it will be delivered. It is important with social media that you stick to a certain structure in your posts to ensure that your audience stay engaged. If you aren’t sure what to be consistent within your posts, below I have listed a few things to consider:
- Quotation marks on quotes
- Length of tweet
- Length of Facebook post
- URL type, i.e bit.ly, ow.ly, or generic URL structure
- Placement of the link
4:1 Staple Sharing System
Another thing to take into consideration is described by Buffer as the 4:1 Staple Sharing Schedule. Basically, everyone has their generic ‘staple’ shares, i.e. links to blogs, links to off-site content, photos etc. So, for every 4 staple shares, you should post one varied share, i.e. something completely different that offers more of a wow factor. This should help to add variety to your shares, and keep your audience’s attention.
How often Should You be Posting?
Once you have your content, know what time to post it, and how to structure it, all that is left is determining how many times you should share all of this content. Again, much like timings, there is no one rule for all, however, given the different best practices for each network, there are general suggestions given, in order to create maximum exposure. Below is an infographic provided by Constant Contact that clearly lays out the general rules for the frequency of shares needed per network.
If you are thinking to yourself, ‘I really don’t want to have to post this many times a week’, don’t worry, you don’t have to be active on the social network and write the post every time it needs sending out, there are tools for that. In case you haven’t already used them before, Hootsuite and Buffer allow you to schedule posts for the following months, so all of your content can be scheduled on one day to be posted for the following month, easy right?
So now you have a basic guideline to sharing on social media. To reiterate an important point, these are just rough steps for generating social shares, the best way to fully optimise your social media marketing is to find out for yourself what suits your audience by measuring, implementing change and then measuring again.