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What Makes People Share Content?

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In the content world, sharing is the gateway to better results. More people sharing your content means more people reading it, visiting your site, and eventually converting. It also means more followers for your brand on social media, more social signals to influence your ranks, and more links being built to strengthen your domain even further. It’s no secret that getting lots of shares is a good thing—but that doesn’t tell you anything about how to get them.

I’ve seen amazingly well-written, insightful content get only a handful of shares while questionable, poorly-researched content got tons of shares. Though there is a lot of overlap, “shareable” content isn’t necessarily “good” content, and vice versa. So what exactly is it that makes people share content?

The Gap Between Shareable and Unshareable

articleimage1650 The Gap Between Shareable and Unshareable

First, it’s worth noting the way people tend to share content. According to a recent analytical study covering one million pieces of content by Moz and BuzzSumo, 75 percent of content produced online today gets zero shares and zero links. Even stranger, the curve for these shares is not normal—rather than an even bell distribution granting a steady rate of more shares to better and better content, nearly all the shares are lumped into only the most valuable pieces. This is likely due either to the exponential cascading effect of shares leading to more shares, or due to the vast gap in quality when it comes to content.

Either way, what this means for you is that your strategy needs to be focused with laser precision. Writing one truly amazing piece of content is far better for earning shares than writing a dozen pieces of decent content. Strive to be in the minority here.

Long-Form Content Always Gets More Shares

articleimage1650 Long-Form Content Always Gets More Shares

Almost universally, long-form content (pieces of more than 1,000 words) get the most shares. Even longer forms of content, like those 10,000 words or more, get even higher numbers of shares. The key here is not to use more words to describe your ideas, but to include more ideas in your piece. Keep conciseness as a fundamental for your goals, and always include background and supplementary research so people know where your arguments are coming from.

Short-Form Content Has a Higher Chance of Getting Shared

articleimage1650 Short-Form Content Has a Higher Chance of Getting Shared

Just because long-form pieces tend to accumulate more shares than short-form pieces doesn’t mean short-form pieces don’t have a place. While shared short-form pieces get less average shares than shared long-form pieces, in general, short-form pieces have higher chances of getting shared. They’re fast and digestible, so you can produce many of them for the same time or money that a long-form piece costs you. Just focus on keeping your content concise and easily scannable for readers who only want the high-level argument.

Originality Is a Prerequisite

articleimage1650 Originality Is a Prerequisite

Before we go any further, know that originality is an absolute must. If someone has seen a topic similar to yours in the past, he/she isn’t going to share it—end of story. Your first job in maximizing shares is to pick a topic that matters, and one that hasn’t already been done to death. You need to simultaneously add value to people’s lives and depart from the norm. Don’t rush the topic selection process.

People Love Visuals

Written content is great, but it can only take you so far. Vision is the most powerful human sense, and people have a natural predisposition to favor content with a visual element. You could include embedded images or videos, or simply include a header with a significant original photo. Any visual component can increase your piece’s share potential.

Feeling Is at the Core of Sharing

People only share things because it makes them feel a particular emotion. The stronger they feel this, the better. It could be happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, or excitement—that all depends on your brand, your topic, and your audience. When people experience strong emotions, they want to share those emotions with others. Be sure to emphasize these emotions while creating your piece, but don’t cross the line of being exploitative.

Sharing Is a Discussion Starter

People also share things in order to start a conversation, or to state their feelings on a particular subject. They share a post to invite their friends and contacts to express their opinions, either to clarify and reinforce their own sentiments or to share an alternative viewpoint. The more debatable your topic is, the more likely it will lend itself to discussion, and the more discussion around your piece, the more share’s it’s going to get.

Timing Considerations

It’s also worth considering that people are more likely to share materials during certain times of the day and days of the week. For example, the hours between 10 am and noon, and the hours between 8 pm and 10 pm tend to accumulate the most shares. Different social media platforms also have different user preferences; for example, Twitter is rarely active over the weekend and peaks around the noon hour, while Facebook gets more active near 5 pm.

Key Takeaways

I’ve covered a lot of information in this piece, but I haven’t exactly given you a secret formula for success. That’s because there isn’t one. You have to take these insights, apply them to your own content strategy the best you can, and modify them until you start to see results. As we’ve seen here, both long-form and short-form content have advantages, so use them to their greatest potential. Find something original, and include multimedia accompaniments like images and videos wherever possible, play on human emotions, start a conversation with your audience, and publish your material at the right time. Do that, and you’ll maximize your potential shares.

Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.

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Samuel Edwards

In his 4+ years as a digital marketing specialist, Sam has learned the ins and outs of online marketing. Additionally, he has worked with countless local businesses as well as enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including: NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP, and human rights organization Amnesty International. Today he continues to work with and establish SEO, PPC and SEM campaigns.

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