How To Get Your Content Shared Online

November 17, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Online Marketing

During 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.

For 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.

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