Whether you’re a business or individual trying to make a splash on the Internet, social media should be your best friend. Invest in it, spend your time getting to know the different social networks, and most importantly, experiment with different kinds of content and posts.
As a marketer, I wish there was a scientific formula to ensure every post I compose gets likes, shares, retweets, and favorites to the extent that it goes viral. Sadly, there is no concrete formula, and it’s quite the goal to want all of my social media content to go viral, but a girl can hope, can’t she?
Despite the lack of scientific proof to guarantee that your social media posts are shared extensively, viral posts share some common elements. Let’s explore four of these elements: what they are, and how they can differ from network to network.
People love images. The more we are able to see something up close and personal, the greater impact it will have on us, and the more likely we are to remember it.
Take Twitter, with the addition and encouragement of photos in Tweets, people can see what the post is all about in the blink of an eye. From there, they can decide if they’re going to click on the post and engage with it. In my experience, users are more likely to click on a Tweet with an image attached, than a Tweet without an image.
Images draw the attention of followers, enticing them to click and see what else the post has in store for them. And if the image is tempting enough, it influences people to favorite and retweet it. Take the recent “selfie” Tweet by Ellen DeGeneres and her Oscar friends:
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) March 3, 2014
As of Monday morning (and the numbers continue to increase), this Tweet has 3,370,737 retweets and 1,932,050 favorites. These numbers are astonishing. In fact, it’s the most retweeted Tweet of all time, beating out President Obama’s “Four More Years” Tweet in 2012. I can’t imagine this Tweet would have the response it did without the image attached, regardless of Ellen’s fame.
Words are great, but when it comes to images on social media, it’s about showing your audience something they cannot tear their eyes from.
Speak to your audience
When I think of the posts I click on, they’re always the ones that are written specifically for me (at least that’s what I tell myself). These are also the posts I share the most.
I cannot stress enough the importance of speaking to your target audience. Don’t just tailor posts to the people you want to read them; compose your posts so your audience has to read them. Make them so interested in what you have to say that they can’t pass up the opportunity to read or look at your content.
Many times, speaking to your audience is not enough; incorporate those images we talked about earlier. This will grab their attention and allure them to read on. In addition to speaking to your audience through images, compose posts that pull people in. Ask them a question they can’t resist responding to and sharing. Find what types of posts your audience responds to, and use it to your advantage. Whether you take a humorous or more serious approach, make sure you test it out.
One example of a brand that consistently speaks to their audience is Cosmopolitan. With each post, whether it’s on Facebook or Twitter, Cosmo constantly pulls in their audience with captivating headlines and images. Here are a couple examples of highly shared and liked Facebook posts:
Two very different topics, both posts appeal to their target audience – women ages 18 to 49 – and let’s be serious here, every woman loves treats and Leo. What really gets me is despite one of the posts being about Leonardo DiCaprio, the post about Oreo treats got nearly 800 more shares, and in just 15 hours. I guess we love treats more than we love Leo.
Beyond having images and speaking to their target audience, highly shared social media posts stir emotions. These emotions could be anything, because regardless of the particular sensation, when you make your audience feel something, they’ll be more likely to share your post.
For example, this Tweet by ESPN during the 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony was one of the most shared posts of the games, according to Twitter’s interactive photo collage of this years’ games.
230 athletes, 1 nation.
Team USA is ready to represent at the Winter Olympics. pic.twitter.com/8xhsbb3JdM
— ESPN (@espn) February 8, 2014
So what makes this Tweet so shareable? We love the Olympics. It’s a chance for the United States to showcase their best athletes, while representing our great country. As Americans, we take great pride in the games, always hoping to win the gold, and supporting our athletes through their triumphs, and more importantly, through their frustrations.
This brings me to my next example. Proctor & Gamble’s “Thank You, Mom” viral advertisement.
P&G’s “Thank You, Mom”
This video has well over 18 million views, 41,168 shares on YouTube, and 647,602 shares on all networks, according to Unruly’s Viral Video Chart, making it another example of how an emotional post on social media can encourage people to share. I personally get goose bumps from this commercial. After all, I can’t even begin to count the number of times my mom has picked me up after I’ve fallen.
Make your audience feel something, and you’ll get more shares. It’s as simple as that (in theory, anyways).
Ask for replies, shares and retweets
While you’re making your audience feel something with stirring images, ask them to share your content. You know the old saying, “ask and you shall receive”, well that works with social media too. According to Digital Insights, “28% of Retweets on Twitter are due to inclusion of ‘please RT!’”
And take a look at this post from Thinking Out Loud’s Facebook page: since March 1, 2014, this post has received 10,086 likes and 746,626 shares. Moms were invited to share this photo on their page if they have a daughter, and it looks like it worked!
Ask for your followers to share, like and retweet your social media content; you never know the potential of simply asking.
While these four elements are not the end all, be all of highly shared social media content and posts, they’re certainly aspects you should not overlook. It might take some time to get the response you want, but with time, you’ll build your following and figure out what they want and what they’re inclined to share.