While creating intelligent, readable copy is eminently important for all content marketers, ensuring that the material you produce grabs the audience’s attention and makes them want to share it with their peers is, in this age of content overload, increasingly crucial.

So how, I hear you ask, can you mould the written word in such a way that a reader is encouraged to retweet? Is there a linguistic formula, or some grammatical algorithm, that can motivate someone to link to an article via their Facebook feed?

The answer, as it nearly always is when it comes to crafting captivating content, is to understand your audience, to know what engages them, and to drape your copy over a frame that fulfils their content needs.

But what is it that people want to read, and what drives them to push your content out to friends and family?

To share is to do

Fractl, an American agency that looks to understand the science behind compelling content, last month published an insightful piece of research which assessed and analysed the behaviours of more than 2,000 Facebook users to better understand their social media sharing behaviours.

The study, though focused only on Facebook, offers real food for thought when it comes to producing content and subsequently marketing it to reach the people you wish to engage.

Sharing is caring

Sharing content is, by its very definition, a means of passing on pertinent information to friends, family or acquaintances. Social media is a wonderfully simple and efficient medium for distribution attention-grabbing content; where once we ripped articles out of a newspaper or magazine to hand them over at a later date, we now have to do nothing more arduous than click a button.

So why does a person feel compelled to share content? What is it about a particular piece that encourages the average social media user to prolong an article’s life, to place it under the nose of a new audience?

Social media is a wonderfully simple and efficient medium for distribution attention-grabbing content

According to Fractl, the primary reasons people share content on Facebook are:

  • 48% – friends will find it interesting
  • 17% – it expresses an opinion or point of view
  • 13% – it will make people feel emotive
  • 11% – people will find it useful

These findings reveal that interesting content is, somewhat overwhelmingly, the main factor that drives Facebook shares. What makes something ‘interesting’ is of course subjective, but by producing content that tackles previously unanswered questions, looks at a hot topic from a different perspective, provides succinct and reliable data that supports or contradicts an established point of view, or gives the reader material they can utilise in their everyday life, you give yourself the best chance of creating something that people will be happy to distribute.

The vanity market

Though almost half of all those assessed admit their primary reason for sharing content is to offer something that will be of interest to their friends, there are numerous other considerations that will influence a social media user’s conduct.

One of the key factors that an individual will deliberate prior to sharing is, quite simply, how that piece of content will reflect upon them. Social media, as with all forms of interaction, allows a person to maintain a profile, to sculpt a persona, and one of the most effective ways of doing that is to share content with which you wish to be associated.

Social media, as with all forms of interaction, allows a person to maintain a profile

Fractl’s findings regarding image-conscious sharing:

  • 2 in 5 people say they will only share items that make them look good
  • 3 in 5 people say they would avoid sharing any content that can make them look bad

From these particular outcomes, it is possible to ascertain that upholding a particular impression of themselves is incredibly important for many Facebook users. Social media is a large part of many people’s lives, and most view it as a real, and very visible, extension of their character. So, by creating content that is both interesting and makes people feel as though they are, in some way, enhancing their reputation, you will most certainly be on to a winner.

Going on a share hunt

Conservative estimates suggest that more than a billion people visit Facebook daily, with some 56% using the platform multiple times during any given day. That gives you a pretty substantial potential audience, and one that could most definitely enhance your business should you find a way of effectively connecting with only a tiny percentage of Facebook’s colossal usership.

When it comes to attracting the attention of people, appealing to them emotively is incredibly effective. Making them feel something is a sure-fire way of retaining their interest, and giving them a genuine incentive to share.

Of course, as we alluded to earlier, it is imperative that any content you create, no matter the audience you aspire to inspire, is of the highest quality. Quality ensures the content you produce is viewed as robust and trustworthy and will help the reader to feel more comfortable about the idea of passing it on.

When it comes to attracting the attention of people, appealing to them emotively is incredibly effective

As discussed above, people want to be associated with things that enhance their reputation or make them appear intelligent, funny or ahead of the game, so it essential you keep excellence and relevance at the very core of all you produce.

Be original, be creative, don’t be frightened to tread new ground; make sure you spend your time fashioning content that means something, that will make people sit up and take note, and your work will be shared on social media feeds throughout the land in no time.