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What makes content “shareable”? How to encourage readers to pass it on

When you write – or commission – a fantastic piece of digital content, naturally you’re hoping people will read it. And if those readers then share it too, even better – free marketing for you!

But with over 600 million blogs and 1.9 billion web pages out there, how do you make sure your content is share-worthy? What makes readers want to bookmark a web page, tag colleagues underneath a Facebook post – or, better still, copy a URL and post it on their own LinkedIn or social media pages?

Let’s take a look at six of the ways and whys of digital content being good enough to share – and how you can ensure yours is in the running.

1. It’s digestible

Let’s start with the nuts and bolts of content creation. Good writing and easy-to-read sentences will always make for happier readers than long, convoluted constructions that need a second read in order to be understood. And a happier reader is more likely to be a sharer. This is where good editing comes in – a second pair of eyes should iron out any stumbling blocks in the text.

But it’s not only the actual words that are important; the way the information is laid out is also key. Here are a few ways to make your content more digestible: 

Write engaging headlines: Grab your reader’s attention from the get-go with a headline that piques their interest. There’s room to be creative here; SEMrush research showed that 10- to 13-word headlines drive 1.5 x more shares than shorter ones.

Use snappy sentences: There’s no place for overly-long phrasing in copywriting. Digital content isn’t your Psychology degree, so keep your text easy for your audience to read. Combining shorter sentences with longer ones will also create variety, keeping readers’ attention down the page.

Employ short paragraphs: Shorter chunks of writing are more visually appealing than longer blocks, which tend to look daunting on the page. As a rule of thumb, keep paragraphs to 3-4 sentences so your reader doesn’t feel intimidated by all the words.

Connect paragraphs: Rather than shifting from topic to topic, link paragraphs together semantically to improve flow of reading – and to stop your reader’s brain from flitting away. Introducing a narrative, or referring back to previous points later in the text, can also help tie everything together nicely.

Use subheadings: Subheadings divide up the text and allow for skim-reading, which most of us do nowadays, since we seem to have the attention spans of toddlers. Use the H2, H3, and H4 structure to make a text easier to absorb – and more aesthetically attractive. 

Include lists: The human brain absorbs information more readily when it’s presented in a list. And the proof is in the pudding: research by SEMrush found that articles with at least one list per 500 words got 70% more traffic than those without them.

2. It’s engaging

Interesting content is more likely to be shared – so how to keep the reader’s attention? As this New York Times research on the psychology of sharing showed, people share to bring valuable and entertaining content to others. 

It sounds obvious, but it’s worth remembering that readers will usually share content that is beneficial or interesting to them personally. In the New York Times study of 2,500 medium and heavy online sharers, 94% said they carefully consider how useful the information they’re sharing will be for the recipient. So how to keep readers eager for more – and eager to share? Here are three tips:

Show, don’t tell: This is about moving away from purely conceptual writing (just telling readers stuff) and explaining the how of what you’re trying to say (showing them things). The best way to do this? Give real-life examples that back up your points and make the reader feel involved.

Add images: Everybody loves looking at pictures; they provide relief from all those words and can help illustrate the mood of your piece. And the evidence? Let’s refer to that SEMrush research again, which found posts with at least one image get 30% more shares than posts containing just text.

Include videos: Video content is already huge, and growing fast as our habits evolve. As this research from Wyzowl showed, 51% of people are more likely to share video than any other type of content – compared to 13% for blog posts – making video the most shareable type of online content.

3. It’s relatable

When creating digital content, it’s so easy to forget that it’s a human (and hopefully several) who will eventually be reading it. As living, breathing beings who experience a vast range of emotions, readers want to feel something when they read a blog post, email, or About page. And that’s where the human side of content creation is so important.

Research by CoSchedule found that social media posts with a higher emotional value tended to get more shares – and, unsurprisingly, it was the happy emotions like awe, laughter, emotion, and joy that inspired more sharing. Which brings us on to:

4. It’s funny

Who doesn’t want to smile? Laughing releases endorphins, AKA feel-good chemicals, in the brain, and activates the release of serotonin, the chemical responsible for happiness. Including humour in your content does three important things that must get at least halfway to a share:

  • It shows confidence
  • It increases relatability
  • It builds connection

Not all digital content is conducive to humorous asides and side-cracking anecdotes. It would be incongruous to include a snappy one-liner in a piece of technical copywriting (although it can work) or in a blog about a serious world issue like war or poverty. But if the subject matter allows it, you could try incorporating puns, observational humour, or an irreverent tone of voice (ToV) into your brand messaging

One company that really hits the spot with humour is the budget airline Ryanair. Its funny Instagram posts receive thousands of likes, tags and interactions, while its ads poking fun at customer complaints are hilarious – therefore highly shareable. Likewise, the lighthearted ToVs of the smooth brand Innocent and the oat milk maker Oatly are much appreciated by their customers.

5. It’s relevant

Like relatability, if a piece of content is relevant to the reader’s life, work, concerns, or experiences, they’re more likely to want to share it with everyone they know.

COVID-19 gives us a fantastic example of this. In 2022, when the world was adjusting to life after the pandemic, research by LinkedIn found that most were sharing content about remote working, Zoom calls, and vaccines. As the article states, this “paints a picture of a community coming to terms with how their professions and lives are permanently changed – dealing with the consequences and embracing the possibilities of all that means”. 

The takeaway? If the subject matter affects your reader’s life somehow, they’re more likely to hit “share”.

6. It helps define us

People share content they wish to be associated with. In distributing an article or post, the sharer is generally saying “I endorse this” and trying to shape their perception in the eyes of others. Of course, it’s possible to share in a negative sense, too, “I don’t agree with this” – in this case, the sharer will usually include a caption explaining as much. 

But in the main, as the New York Times study showed, people share to define themselves to others. Its study found that 68% of participants shared to give people a better sense of who they are and what they care about.

Similarly, users post content to bolster their own professional reputation; e.g. a freelance copywriter might share blogs and articles on LinkedIn about developments in SEO and digital marketing strategy. This is akin to shouting from the rooftops that they’re keeping up with trends – and are therefore more knowledgeable (and employable).

Shareable Copywriting by Proof Content 

It’s so important to make your web pages, email messaging, brand story, product pages, and other digital content sing. At Proof Content, we write thousands of highly shareable words every week, and our writers and editors are keen to help your business thrive. Talk to us so we can work our magic for you.

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