Agency Optimization

Anatomy of a Shareable Post

Everyone wants awesome content—especially brands. Every page view is a virtual high-five. A view says, “my brand is interesting and deserves attention!” Shares, on the other hand, are pure catnip. A share is validation from on high. It’s proof that someone finds your content interesting, informative, and awesome enough for them to share with their peers.

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Marketing Team
September 12, 2018
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min read

Shares and page views are two of the top success metrics companies use to measure blog performance, and with good reason. Shares increase your brand’s visibility in a way that removes the stigma of self-promotion. Who would you trust more: your friend, or a brand spokesman? According to Nielsen, 92% of survey respondents trust referrals from people they know.

Creating shareable content should be one of your biggest content marketing priorities. It’s easy to say, and hard to do. It’s always worth encouraging people to share content they enjoy, for starters. You should also analyze popular content, adopting the best practices and making them your own.

So let’s go ahead and do that!

What do the most popular blog posts have in common?

Much like the most popular kids in high school, the most popular blog posts all tend to have certain things in common. Regardless of topic or industry, there are some factors that just seem to make a blog more likely to connect with a reader. Hubspot did a thorough analysis of its own blog and published the results for everyone to see.

Here are just a few of the discoveries their analysis made:

Article word count. In their analysis of the highest performing posts on the Hubspot blog, researchers found that articles with a word count of between 2,250 - 2,500 words seem to perform best within organic searches. However, it was the articles with a word count of over 2,500 that got the most shares on social media.

Headlines. Headlines are important for catching people’s attention and drawing them in, whether they’re seen in search results or on social media. When Hubspot crunched the numbers, they found that the most shared articles were those with a title length of between 8-12 words on Twitter, and 12-14 words on Facebook.

But researchers didn’t just look at title length. They also looked at any specific words or title conventions that were common in the highest-performing posts. Numbering an article (e.g. 10 things your customer needs) resulted in an 18.62% rise in tweets. Including the word “how” drew 9.1% more tweets, while the word “template” brought a whopping 114.6% more tweets than the norm.

Anchor text and external links. Anchor text is the text on your website that acts as the "button" you click to go somewhere else, like this. Anchor text can either be an exact match to the keyword in question, or a partial match. If this anchor text takes the reader to a website other than your own, it’s called an external link.

The reason these definitions are important is that Hubspot found a correlation between the number of anchor texts and external links to the shareability of your blog post. Basically, the higher number of anchor text and external links your page has, the more likely it is to be shared and the better it will perform in search engines.

That being said… there is such a thing as too many links. You don’t want your writing to look spammy, or for your reader to get so distracted by external links that they wander off and never come back!

Successful blogs like Hubspot analyze their content and its performance. In the process of this self-discovery, they uncover great insights into word counts, title composition, and link usage. Here are some of the most critical components of shareable blog posts.

Images. According to a study conducted by Jeff Bullas, articles with images get 94% more total views than articles without images. The right preview image looks much better on social media and gets more attention that a post that only includes a link. That’s why it’s so important to set up easy sharing buttons for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other social channels.

Deep or opinion-forming content. The SEO experts at Moz conducted their own study and found that if you want a post that gathers both a high number of shares and a high number of referral links (people linking to your post), you need to provide deep or thought-provoking content. Content that is popular or trendy, such as quizzes, entertaining images, or light-hearted videos, do have the potential to go viral, but even if they do, are less likely to attract referral links leading back to your website. This kind of content also has a longer shelf-life, and can continue to send traffic and leads back to your site for a longer time period than trendy pieces.

This should also encourage you to use blogs as a vehicle to promote white papers, infographics and webinars. According to DemandGen, those three content assets are among the most shared by B2B buyers.

But wait—content isn’t just limited to blog posts. Nor are blog posts the only thing you do that can be shared. What about social media content?

Guidelines for social media content

Despite a blog’s usefulness as a thought leadership platform, social media still plays a large part in a company’s content strategy. According to the Social Media Examiner, 81% of marketers found an increase to web traffic after spending just 6 hours a week on social media marketing. Let’s see what we can do to increase shareability for our social media content.

Facebook. The fine folks at Marketo released a study analyzing a month’s worth of posts across dozens of Facebook pages, narrowing down the most shareable posts and what makes them so appealing. What they found is that the most shared Facebook posts often do one of these seven things:

  1. Gives. Offers a material or intangible benefit to the reader.
  2. Advises. Instructs the reader on a particular topic or issue.
  3. Warns. Cautions a reader about something potentially dangerous.
  4. Amuses. Delights the reader with something enjoyable.
  5. Inspires. Encourages the reader to take positive action.
  6. Amazes. Shows the reader something new and unexpected.
  7. Unites. Connects the reader with other like-minded folk.

Notice that each of those actions is tied to a specific emotion. “Warn,” for example, is tied to fear and caution while “Amuses” is tied to delight and enjoyment. While this lesson certainly does work in a Facebook environment, this strategy can apply to other content channels as well.

Instagram. As mentioned before, using photos effectively counts for a lot, but especially on Instagram where the photo is the entire point of the post. There are a lot of hacks that can help your Istream become one of the most shared spaces on the platform:

  • Photos with faces in them get 38% more likes than those without
  • Use #hashtags. Between 2 and 5 work best.
  • Post on a weekday to get more engagement
  • It’s okay to post photos about products. Just make sure that product posts only occupy 20% of your feed, and include pictures of customers, your team, or other images that fit with your brand and the message you’re trying to convey.

Twitter. Twitter is a versatile platform that is home to many different audiences and brands, and that plays a crucial role in the distribution of branded content. In fact, content consumption on Twitter has increased by 25% in the past two years.

One common yet oft-overlooked tip is to effectively use images, especially when used as a preview image for a larger content piece that is outside of Twitter.

Twitter cards. Twitter cards let you add all sorts of traffic-friendly goodies to your tweets, like promotions or calls to action. They’re an effective way to get around Twitter’s character count limit (even the expanded one) to really showcase your brand and your content. There are many different kinds of Twitter cards and can be suited to nearly any purpose.

Lastly, many people forget the power of a simple request. You don’t need a plugin, and nor do you need automation. Just as for a retweet at the end of each message (but not all the time—you don’t want to sound spammy to your audience). Simply asking for a retweet is enough to get twelve times the usual engagement, and 23x higher if you spell out the entire word “retweet!”

LinkedIn. This platform for professionals needs to be handled much differently than Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

In LinkedIn, you’re promoting yourself as an individual professional, not as a representative of a brand. As such, your content has to be driven by personal experience and addresses other people as business professionals. LinkedIn has even put together some useful starter questions that you can use to fuel your content, such as:

  • How did you get started in your profession?
  • What advice would you give someone entering your field?
  • What do you hope to get out of your career?

Other interesting and popular posts that have appeared include:

  • Failure posts, where you admit to a weakness you’re trying to overcome, or share lessons learned from the past
  • Soap box posts, where you take stance on a popular topic
  • Recommendation posts, where you share your favorite book/blog/podcast

Remember that the emphasis on LInkedIn is on professional development, not brand building. In the long term, LinkedIn is a powerful tool for building up thought leaders in your organization, and promoting them to your target audience in a professional context.

More “systematic art” than science

There’s no exact science to writing killer content. If there were, everyone would be doing it! But there are certain things you can do to maximize your chances of getting picked up and promoted:

  • Focus on value to the reader
  • Use the platform’s features wisely
  • Know your audience and what appeals to them

Keep those things in mind, and your content will quickly find its way from one end of the internet to the other. You’ll create a reputation for releasing great content and people will be waiting to share any content you put out, because they know it will be awesome.

For more tips on creating shareable content, or for help setting up a strategy and putting it into action, get in touch with us at

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Marketing Team
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