12 Ideas to Ignite Your Content NOW

ignite your content

In this red-hot competitive marketing world, “content” is not enough. The focus needs to  shift from writing to igniting — content ignition!

If our content never moves, if it simply sits on a website without any views, shares, and engagement, it has about the same value as the world’s greatest movie script locked from view in a cold, dark vault. The investment in our content is largely wasted.

In this post I will cover 12 “quick hit” structural actions you can take with your content to make it more “shareable.”

The basic idea is that we want to remove every possible obstacle in our control so there is simply no excuse not to share your content!

Here we go. Let’s ignite …

1. Push the right buttons.

Sadly, I have to begin this list with what should be the most obvious recommendation … but perhaps the most useful: Add social sharing buttons to your content site.

Does that seem like odd advice? When I help businesses with their social media strategy, half of them do not have social sharing buttons on their website – even very large companies! In this case, the organizations are almost challenging their readers to share the content by denying them the convenience of a simple share button!

Social recommendations from friends and family are the most trusted source of information for consumers according to eConsultancy. When your customers share positive opinions and experiences on social media, it increases your credibility among potential customers in a way you, as a business, can never accomplish alone. So there must be intense focus on making it easy for those transmissions to flow, starting with the sharing buttons.

2. Focus on feedback and reviews

Another important form of social transmission is feedback and reviews. Offer as many outlets as possible where customers can provide feedback. Join services like Yelp, Citysearch, Google Places and other review sites associated with your location and industry and solicit customer reviews.

Asking for shares, reviews and feedback is a fairly standard practice. What many brands fail to do is feature testimonials and brand evangelists on their websites and social media profiles. What a missed opportunity!

People love attention and special treatment—the customers you feature will likely become even stronger supporters of your brand. Plus, showcasing objective opinions on your website may increase your credibility among potential customers. There are some great tips for attracting positive Yelp reviews here.

3. Be entertaining, funny and positive.

Think about the content you like to spread to your friends or social media tribe. Chances are a lot of it is funny or entertaining, right? Well, turns out there are a lot of people like you out there! Research into the most-shared articles on the web uncovers these emotions described by people sharing the content:

  • Awe (25%)
  • Laughter (17%)
  • Amusement/entertainment (15%).

Pew Research shows that 35 percent of men and 43 percent of women are on Facebook primarily to see entertaining or funny posts. If you’re not afraid to get creative, you have a huge opportunity right in front of you. If people want humor, why fight it?

Conversely, the least popular emotions were sadness and anger, which made up 7 percent of the emotions expressed by content-sharers. So laugh it up with your readers to help ignite social sharing.

4. Go long.

You might have read statistics on how more people are increasingly consuming content through their mobile devices, implying that we need to write short, bite-sized content to satisfy their short attention spans, right?

Wrong.

According to an analysis of 100 million web-based articles, on average, long-form content actually gets shared more than short-form content. In fact, the longer the content, the more shares it gets, with 3,000-10,000 word pieces getting the most average shares of any category. Not surprisingly, there is a lot more short-form content being written. How much more? There were 16 times more content with less than 1,000 words than there were with 2,000+ words. Could be an opportunity?

If you’re writing long-form content, remember to make it easy to scan, and not a wall of text. Structuring it as a list post is a simple way to do that, but if you’re not writing a list, make sure you write shorter, easy-to-read paragraphs, and use sub-headlines and bullet points to break up the text.

5. Use Hashtags

Hashtags are arguably one of the most important innovations in the history of social media marketing. The humble hashtag has become the index card system of the web. It is social media’s most important way to organize information. It is critical to discovering trends, content and ideas.

They’re so widely used that brands now feature them on advertisements, TV shows, even the big screen at sporting events as the hashtag has crept into popular culture.

Following a hashtag also organizes people. The people following a hashtag from every corner of the earth might be starting a company, a discussion that leads to innovation, or the overthrow of a government. Hashtags are the cornerstone elements for communicating everything from disaster relief to memes.

They can also be an important element in ignition equation as people search for content and ideas on certain themes. Some research indicates that the presence of a hashtag could increase social transmission by as much as 70 percent.

For everything you need to know about using hashtags as part of a marketing strategy, refer to Chapter 9 of The Tao of Twitter.

6. The most important part of your content is not your content

Do you want to increase the shareability of your content by 400% in just one easy step?

Lean in close now as I share this secret: “Stop writing sucky headlines.”

In today’s world, you simply MUST craft a descriptive, accurate, catchy and “tweet-able” headline. This is so important, so fundamental, and I am mystified as to why it remains such an obstacle to so many content creators. In fact, the headline is more important than the video or body of the text. Why? Because we live in a world of scanners and if you can’t grab somebody by the throat in a nano-second you have lost them. They will never see the rest of the post.

So here is my Ever-So-Useful List of Best Blog Post Headline Practices:

  • Make it “tweetable short.”
  • It should be descriptive and accurate. Don’t EVER mislead readers.
  • Make it creative enough to stand out in a crowded blog reader.
  • Numbered lists in a headline work well and increase social transmission by 50 percent.
  • Make sure the “value proposition” offers something helpful.
  • Use descriptive, active and unusual verbs and adjectives.
  • Ideally it would contain one keyword that would help a search engine determine the theme of the article and aid your SEO.
  • Don’t make your headline an after-thought. It’s the most critical part of the post. Work it.

7. Be visual

Adding a photo or illustration increases the probability that your content will get shared.

When using Facebook as your content distribution channel, for example, sharing of the content is doubled, on average, if you include a photo. Naturally, brands are figuring this out – 74 percent of all brand posts now contain a photo.

When formatting a photo for a blog post, most blogging platforms give you the chance to assign a meta tag or “alternative text” to the photos. Adding the key word or theme from the article to the photo doesn’t take much time but can provide a small SEO boost.

8. Infographics ignite

The research of 100 million posts also showed that you doubled your chances that people would share your article if it included a list or an infographic.

Whether you love infographics and listicles or hate them, it is difficult to ignore the data – they WORK. These types of content attract dramatically more social sharing than how-to articles, what posts (articles whose title started with the word “What”), Why posts (articles that tried to answer a “Why” question) and videos.

It makes sense. Both list posts and infographics help customers consume content more effectively in an information-dense environment.

A list article with the number 10 in the headline is the best number for social transmission, scoring four times the social shares as the next nearest number in the study.

9. Hold onto them with suggested stories

It takes a lot of work to get somebody to visit your site so once you get them there, do what you can to keep them there. A great way to do that is to use a free widget like LinkedWithin to suggest similar content for your readers. It has four powerful benefits.

  1. It effectively resurrects relevant older content. That gives you more bang for your content investment.
  2. I have not been able to find any universal data on this but for me, LinkedWithin increases page views on my site by 8 percent. That’s HUGE!
  3. By taking people more deeply into relevant content, it increases the chances of connection, subscription, or perhaps even clicks into commercial parts of your site.
  4. It definitely increases social sharing. It’s not unusual to see new readers to my blog tweet three, four, or even more stories in a matter of a few minutes as they go from post to post via LinkedWithin.

Bonus tip: LinkedWithin uses an illustration from your old posts as a visual prompt to keep customers clicking … another great reason to always include a photo or graphic with your content.

10. Revive content to boost social sharing

One of the most depressing aspects of content creation in this hyper-competitive market is the short shelf life of the content. I actually had one person tweet to me “Great post — even though it is older content.” The post was only four weeks old!

Research shows that social sharing on a post is usually over by the fourth day. In fact, after three days, the number of social shares drops by at least 96 percent across every major social network.

This is inevitable, right? Not necessarily. Here is an example of content that breaks the “death cycle”…

A few months ago I noticed something startling in my statistics. Over the life of my Twitter account, a total of 100,000 people had unfollowed me! Isn’t that crazy? As I dug into it, I discovered there was a sub-culture of people who do mass Twitter following and then mass unfollowing. The weird statistic had nothing to do with me. It was residual effect of people trying to “game” Twitter.

I thought this would make a provocative blog post and I had some fun with the headline: “Why 100,000 People Unfollowed Me on Twitter.” But it was also a very helpful post that answered a lot of questions people had about this strange behavior.

Here are the total social sharing statistics (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+) for the post:

April 2013             378

Sept 2013             654

Dec 2013             1,012

March 2014         1,144

Sept 2014            1,858

Jan 2015              2,020

How is this possible? We just saw a statistic proving that most blog posts “die” after three days. Yet this post kept chugging and chugging for years!

In a book I wrote with the great blogger Stanford Smith called Born to Blog, we covered an idea called evergreen content.

Evergreen content is always relevant and useful. This content often answers your customers’ most common questions and rarely goes out-of-date. For example, a “Mommy Jogger” blog would feature evergreen content that describes the correct use of jogging strollers. This post would be useful and relevant for years … and could also be re-posted as new people look for your content.

And that is exactly what I did.

I could see that this was a popular, evergreen post that people enjoyed so I tweeted out to my audience about once a month. And each time I did, it received more comments and social shares. A LOT more!

This is an obvious strategy many businesses ignore because they somehow feel strange about posting “old” content. Evergreen content is a very valuable asset that can ignite for many years.

11. Focus on brand

A dramatic shift has occurred on the content marketing landscape.

The “inbound” concept refers to a strategy where we create content so great that it attracts potential clients to our site like a magnet. In the long-term, this strategy seems to be more cost-effective than a traditional cold-calling sales model. But it also depends on promoting links to this content throughout the social web that drive people to our site.

Those links have become less effective over time as Facebook and LinkedIn focus on fully-published pieces on their sites. This is good news for them because it keeps people on their site (dwell time is king!) but bad news for us because it just took away our “magnet!”

I don’t think we have any choice but to submit to Facebook and deliver our content (instead of a link). In this environment we have to focus on building a brand so interesting that people will want to visit our site to find out more, since there may not be a link to take them there.

12. Re-purposing content

Evergreen content is a versatile workhorse and can be re-purposed to create new information offerings for your customers. A series of evergreen posts can be compiled, edited, and offered as an in-depth special report on a subject. You can also turn the evergreen posts into speeches, webinars, videos, and email courses – just to name a few ideas.

One technique that has been successful for me is turning my best “old” content into colorful presentations on Slideshare. My original blog post “Six questions that lead you to a social media strategy” had a total of about 7,000 page views.

After I posted it on Slideshare, the same content has been seen more than 100,000 times! Slideshare is free to use, owned by LinkedIn, highly indexed by Google, and a deep educational resource for many people. At the end of the presentation, I had a call to action to learn more by buying my book Social Media Explained. I could easily track this link to see how many clicks I received.

Best of all, by re-purposing the content on a new channel, I was reaching an entirely new audience who never saw the first post. It also ignited a new round of social sharing on essentially the same piece of content with no additional development.

Here are a few more ways to re-purpose and re-ignite your content with little or no incremental time or expense:

  • Narrate existing slide presentations and turn them into YouTube videos
  • Take the audio from videos and use it in podcasts
  • Assemble blog posts into themes to create helpful eBooks and customer guides
  • Use blog content as chapters for a book
  • Turn list posts into infographics
  • Post infographics on Slideshare and Pinterest

Starting to see what I mean? The combinations are endless.

Well, I hope that starts you on your journey toward content ignition. I would love to hear any advice, tips, or insider tricks you have to get your content to move through the web!

This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit  IBM’s Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.
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  • Great and helpful advice! I always struggle with the headlines. The ones I think will do great…um… And I’m constantly surprised by ones that do better. Obviously something I need to think about. Soon, real soon. LOL (I see old posts ticking along, too. It helps.)

  • Hi Mark! Very timely! Curious if you’ve seen data about most effective placement and mechanism for social sharing buttons: top, bottom, sticky, tweet this, etc. I’ve been round and round on this in discussions (both past and present) about how best to approach this.

  • Headlines are so important. I struggle with them too. I love it when people tweet the post with better headlines! : )

  • I think people are accustomed to seeing options at the top and bottom. The floating thing always seems a little desperate to me : )

  • Thanks much for the insight. (I know at least one person—in addition to me— who will be delighted to see your thinking on this!)

  • Kajal Gupta

    Hello,

    Such a great post.You mention here some great points that we should consider in 2015.I loved your ways how you shared everything step by step.
    I will share this post with my followers, hope they will love it.

    Thanks to share this useful post with us.

    Keep up your good work!

    Have a nice day!

    Regards,
    http://happyvalentineday2015images.net/

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  • Great article. And if this was a typo, it was a glorious one “Whether you love infographics and listicles or hate them..” If it wasn’t, even better. I learned a new word today. I learn something everytime from {grow}.

  • Why would you post old content, even four weeks old?! It doesn´t matter it is useful, it´s old!!! I will have to check the dates from now on!!!
    Seriously now, I wonder why some people read what they read. I mean, what´s the reason behind it? To say “OMG it´s old” or because you can take away an idea and use it to your own learning? I have to figure this out.
    As usual, great, useful article Mark. You gave me an idea for re-purposing my own content on Slideshare. I´ll let you know how it works out. Thank you for sharing your ideas with us.

  • Ooh, can I add my $.02 to #7? Adding good alternate text is a great way to get the descriptions YOU want on Pinterest. I love it when I pin an image and something nice pops up instead of awesome-image-here.jpg . I’ve taken to adding the URL (more click-throughs that way) and tagging myself so I get notified when people pin from my blog.

    Also, headlines. Why are they SO difficult?!? Definitely my Achilles heel. This is making me want to redo my post from this morning. Thanks a LOT, Mark! 🙂

  • I stand by my listicles.

  • Wonderful. I wish you success with your experiment Corina!

  • Headlines. Don’t get me started. I am not going to read a blogpost called “My dog” or “Here are some thoughts.” Wake up folks. : )

    So I expect nothing but scintillating headlines from now on Alisa!

  • Ha! Blog post coming on this exact topic. Expect name-dropping!

    PS – I would loooove it if your blog posts were available as short podcasts. I might even record some for you if you want 🙂 You could even have the authors do it. Of course, we will miss Tom’s fabulous impressions, but still…

  • Interesting idea.

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  • Madeline Urbaniak

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for this article. Many insights are really valuable for my daily work.

    Good you mentioned about meaning of evergreen content. I know it by my own experience as a fan of tractors – post about specific machines last for long month (even years) and always worth back to them. Same on my blog – at the beginning had not very large group of audience. After couple of months, when my community started growing I reminded about “old” posts which were lost on my site, and they loved it.

    You surprised me I bit if it comes to “go long” part. I met the attitude that we shouldn’t make post too long because people are super super busy. You recommend something different. You think that clear structure and interesting headlines can help when people have no time to read and need the easiest to absorb content possible?

  • Yes that is correct. I think we should not dwell so much on long-form or short-form but on “right form.” Tell the story in the way it needs to be told.

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