3 reasons your content isn’t getting shared — and how to fix them
You've put time and effort into your content, but it's not getting the traction you'd hoped for. What can you do? Columnist Jayson DeMers helps identify the underlying issue and suggests solutions.
Shares are a big deal for content. These shares come in two forms: A user can share a piece of content from your site onto their social media profile directly, or they can encounter your article on social media and share, retweet or re-pin from there.
Either way, the effect is similar: It increases the reach of your article to more people, adds to the social proof of your article’s success, and may even affect how many links and how much traffic it earns.
The problem is, social shares are far from guaranteed, and there’s no repeatable, reliable formula to ensure you get them. So what do you do when your content isn’t getting as many shares are you’d hoped — or if it isn’t getting shared at all?
First, you need to understand what the problem is. There are three main types of problems that could be behind your content’s lack of shares.
1. Audience problems
The first type of problem is audience targeting, which can prevent your content from getting seen by the people most likely to share it.
- Pick the right audience. Are you writing for a “general” audience, or do you have a specific niche in mind? It’s almost impossible to get shares unless you’re writing for some specific demographic. Who’s going to be most interested in this content? What niche hasn’t already been targeted by a competitor?
- Choose the right topics. There are two baseline requirements for choosing topics relevant to your target audience. The first is that your topics need to be original — if someone else has covered this topic sufficiently already, your users are far less likely to respond. The second is that they need to be powerful in some way — they could be intriguing, surprising, interesting or valuable, or they could invoke some kind of emotion.
- Write in the right voice. The body of your content, too, should be tailored to your audience. If you write in a vocabulary that’s too sophisticated or unsophisticated for your audience, they’ll be turned off and won’t want to share it. This is your chance to prove you know your audience well. You should take it.
- Distribute your article to the right channels. Even once the article is written, your audience targeting isn’t over. You have to distribute your article to the right channels, publishers and social media platforms if you want to maximize its visibility. For example, there are powerful demographic splits among social media platforms. Use the ones your audience is most likely to use.
2. Content problems
It’s also possible that your content itself is responsible for the lack of shares: It might just not be good enough to be shared.
- Provide value. Your topics might be original and appealing in some way, but how practical is your material, really? Can readers walk away with knowledge of how to do something they didn’t have before? Are their horizons truly broadened? Were they actually entertained, surprised or interested? Give your readers a measurable takeaway.
- Use appropriate formats. You need to carefully consider the formatting of your piece. For some topics and audiences, short-form content is better to promote sharing because it’s a fast read that’s easy to pick up. For others, long-form content is better because it provides the full picture on a topic. As a general rule, more visual elements in your content are always a good thing, and it’s usually a good idea to break your content down into subsections and lists so it can be easily skimmed and understood “at a glance” (as not everyone’s going to have time to fully read it).
- Surprise your readers. Your content should, on some level, surprise your readers. You might have a bit of information they’ve never heard before, or you might express an opinion they weren’t expecting. You might even present a turn in the body of your content that nobody can see coming — the point is, people love to spread their surprise.
- Include takeaways. Whether it’s the main focus of your article or just a summary section at the end, try to offer a list of takeaways for your audience. Many people skim content rather than read it; this section is perfect for them.
3. Logistics problems
Finally, and perhaps most simply, there could be logistical problems preventing your article from being shared.
- Ensure your share buttons are visible and working. If you want shares, you have to make it easy for people to share your content. Include social share buttons on all of your content pages. Make them prominent, include share counts (where you can), and test them to make sure they’re functional on desktop and mobile devices.
- Syndicate your content for an early boost. Don’t rely on your customers to do all the work for you. Start building momentum early by syndicating your article yourself. Distribute it, pitch it and redistribute it down the line, then ask your closest followers (and maybe some insiders) to share the article for you. (For more ideas, see “The Ultimate Tactical Checklist For Promoting Your Next Blog Post.”)
- Build and nurture your audience. Your audience consists of your social media followers, email newsletter subscribers, customers, offline customers and relationships and frequent website visitors. The larger and more engaged your audience is, the more likely your work will be shared from the get-go. Work on developing your following into a large, thriving community.
If you can address these problems more or less completely, you should start to see a noticeable increase in the number of shares your content receives.
It won’t happen all at once, but take careful measurements of your articles’ performances before and after you enact these changes. If you’re consistent in your implementation, the general trend should be upward growth — especially as your social audience begins to grow.