How To Get Your Content Shared Online


share contentDuring his presentation at PubCon, Tony Wright shared a quote that really stuck with me. In my liveblogging craze, I have no idea where the quote originally came from (forgive me. Do share, if you know), but here it is:

“If I tell my Facebook friends about your brand, it’s because I like my friends – not because I like your brand.”

No. Read that again. But take it in his time.

People don’t care about you. They care about helping themselves and their network. Come to terms with that.

A lot of businesses are under the assumption that people share their content because of how awesome their company is. As if people need them or their brand. That couldn’t be further from the truth. People share content because it makes THEM look awesome. It feeds THEIR ego to share information, to pass on something people hadn’t heard before, to be the one in on the punch line. That’s why they share it. It’s simply in your best interest to help them share it.

Over at Social Media Explorer, Jason Falls pointed me to a really interesting new study released by SocialTwist (they make the Tell-A-Friend widget) that offered some pretty worthwhile stats about how people share information. The data was collected after tracking the “anonymous” behavior of 10 million referral messages from the Tell-A-Friend widget. I thought some of the highlights were worth sharing and taking a look at.

From the data:

  • Social media revolution aside, 59 percent of users share via email. Twenty-five percent share via IM.
  • Facebook is the most popular social network to share content online. LinkedIn is the lowest.
  • Bookmarking sites like Delicious are losing steam.
  • Only nerds like us are using Gmail, GTalk and Google bookmarking to share content. Normal people aren’t so impressed.
  • Twitter sharing has increased 23x over the past year…bringing it to a whopping 1 percent.
  • Yahoo Mail is the top content sharing channel with 26 percent.

Let’s get this out of the way: Is Social Twist’s data somewhat skewed? Definitely. For example, Twitter has some seriously low numbers due simply to how people use Twitter. If you’re going to share a post on Twitter, you’re not going to use the Tell-A-Friend widget. You’re going to drop your link into a URL shortening and THEN tweet it so you can benefit from the stats. However, I do think the data provided paints an interesting look into how “normal people” share content online and how they’re doing it in ways and channels you may not have realized.

sharingFor example, it’s interesting to me that people are predominantly sharing content via IM and email. It’s not through social networks. I’m sure that’s heavily impacted by the fact that everyone has an email address, while not everyone has a social networking profile – but look at how personal people still take sharing information. You have to really like something (or someone) to send it via email. You can get away with sending crap over Twitter every once and again, but if you spam someone in email, they’ll hate you for life. And your children.

And the social network that sees the most sharing? Facebook. Again, one of the more personal outlets. Perhaps this simply says something about the demographics of the sites that use the Tell a Friend widget, but maybe not. I considered how I share content that really appeals to me – the stuff that I share because it really hit home with me  – and I realized that email and Facebook are how I do most of my sharing, as well. It’s not through Twitter. I may use Twitter to broadcast content or be useful, but it’s not how I share information that’s personal to me.

If you have some free time today, use it to get out of your own away.

Companies spend a lot of time today trying to be sexy. Trying to push content on the hottest social networks and to be everywhere at the same time. Sometimes, all you have to do is to get out of your own way and let people share content the way they naturally want to.

Go to Quarkbase and drop your URL in. Take a look at how people are sharing your content, what sites/types of sites are most popular and who’s doing the sharing. Put in a URL for one of your competitors and note the same thing. Use SEO for Firefox to see where your best content is already being shared and the kinds of stuff people like sharing. Any surprises? Any way that you can curve your efforts to make your content more-friendly to those channels or to become viable on new ones?

If you weren’t allowing people to share content via email because you assumed no one was using it, perhaps its time you make that option available. Maybe people want to print your content and share it that way. Maybe they want to save your logos so they can use them on their own sites to say good things about you. Let them do that.

Find out HOW people are sharing your content and then make it easy for them to do that. Empower them to do that.

Your Comments

  • Michael D

    I was in the room for that quote and I remembered it too. What I took away from that was… have friends that can push content, be nice to your friends, help your friends first and the good ones will reciprocate, don’t forget about your friends.

    • Lisa Barone

      That’s interesting. It sounds like you took it more like brands should be friends and they’ll be rewarded like friends. I took it as people just want to impress their real friends. God, I’m jaded…

  • Brian Gleason

    Hi Lisa,

    Great post, very informative. I mainly use Facebook, E-mail and Twitter to share information. I think the real reason people use e-mail is simply to ensure a specific person sees it. It’s much more targeted.

    When I post a new item on my blog I share it on Facebook and Twitter, but then e-mail it to a few people, whom I’m friends with on Facebook, to ensure they see it. There’s just a far greater chance people will miss your message on Twitter and Facebook, there’s so much clutter. By e-mailing, I know those people will at least see it.

    Keep up the great work

    • Lisa Barone

      That’s a great point. Looking at this data made me really look at how I personally share information. For example, I tweet every Outspoken post on Twitter. But I hand select the ones that I post to Facebook. Why? Because it’s more personal. It’s a tighter group. I don’t want to be overly in their face – so I handpick the best content. It’s interesting to look at people’s patterns and how they interact with/use certain platforms. Thanks for sharing! :)

      • Tim Danyo

        I do the same thing. Facebook is a different venue for information. I get annoyed with lazy Tweeters who use Tweetdeck or Seesmic to cross post everything they are Tweeting onto facebook.

  • Daniel

    Great article as usual Lisa. That quote is really powerful and gets to the heart of why people share content — They want to share things that make them look cool or valuable to their friends.

    That being said, I’m a little skeptical of this study. How many people are simply copy and pasting links versus sharing with a more complicated widget? That is the info I would love to see.

    That being said it makes sense that Facebook is the network that gets the most shares with the widget, perhaps for two reasons. 1) Facebook is blocked at work for many people, meaning that sharing via a widget is the only way to post to Facebook, and 2) It’s where everyone is online.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Lisa Barone

      It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this study was skewed, but would the patterns be any different? Percentages may change, but I think this probably matches up pretty well with how “normal” people interact with content on the Web.

      • Daniel

        Definitely agree. But would really just love to know if most “normal” people really use widgets such as share this and Tell-A-Friend or if it is more of a branding decision of the content creator.

        You always want to appear social, shareable and connected– thus widgets really look good on your blog. And of course, you always want your content shared.

        As marketers I feel like we are starting to get at the “why” people share content, but a lot more research needs to be done on the “how”. Thanks for your reply.

  • Tim Danyo

    I love this! Thanks for passing along this light bulb moment. I will do the same.

  • Nathan Hangen

    First thing I look for is the RT button. If that’s not there, I use Twitterbar to Tweet the link. I’m very selective about what I post to Facebook…don’t want to get in the way of everyone’s Farmville.

    • Lisa Barone

      haha, awesome. People take their Farmville very seriously. :)

      I actually never use the RT buttons on tops posts. I always do it manually. I…have no idea why.

  • Data Entry Services

    Thanks for putting this together Lisa. I especially appreciate the links to the tools. Helped me see some interesting stats from my website with Quarkbase.

  • Todd Hebert

    Hi Lisa,

    I took it just as you did. This is truly the case in point ans should be paid close attention to. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Steve Woods

    Thanks, Lisa, for the very valuable information. I still have so much to learn, and you provided one more piece of the puzzle for me.

  • edward boches

    It is a great quote. I’ve been using it a lot. It’s all over Twitter. But, I am told, though with no true certainty, that it was originated by Mike Arauz, a strategist at Under Current, in Brooklyn, they guys who did Ford Fiesta Movement. So, maybe that’s true, or maybe he found it somewhere else. I believe you can find the original post on his blog. Thanks for the post.

  • Yawn Webmaster!

    “For example, it’s interesting to me that people are predominantly sharing content via IM and email.”

    I tried to go around Facebook the other day looking for stuff. Very hard.

    Of course Spam is a big feature of Social Media/RSS stuff which is quite hard to measure, but there have been some studies done.

    Most of those helpful query based sites seem more interested in caching a copy of the contents of your website via multiple sources which then start to appear around the results in the search engine for your brand terms. Therefore I don’t use them as you can aggregate the stuff yourself using Yahoo Pipes and be done with it. I’m very close to switching off my RSS altogether or locking it down completely, it just makes things too easy for content thieves.

    Actually let’s say all RSS tomorrow stopped.

    What would happen to you and your business?

  • Reid Peterson

    I find the stats very interesting. What I’m now noticing is- when you’re offline and meeting new people, they ask if you’re on FB after you talk for a bit. When you say yes, you get a friend request the next day.

    It’s the way this world is now and being nice to friends on facebook and other social media is critical to maintaining a powerful online presence.

  • çember makinesi

    great article for sharing thank you