My clients often ask me about the “key” to social media success. They want to know “how it works,” what “tools” to use, and how to “engage” their so-called fans. They want to know how to make their content “go viral.”
Though there is no silver bullet, set formula, or one-size-fits-all solution for creating shareable content (each piece of viral content develops in its own perfect storm), there is one secret I can share – the secret of …
I don’t mean flair as in style and panache or as in having an aptitude or a talent. I mean flair as in wearable opinions.
Have you ever seen the movie Office Space? Do you remember how Jennifer Aniston’s character worked at that lousy chain restaurant (a loosely disguised TGIFriday’s) and had to wear a minimum 15 pieces of “flair” – masses of little buttons with sayings and smiley faces on them. Or, maybe you’re familiar with the Facebook app of the same name that lets you collect and display graphic icons of the things you like. Either way, “flair” is about self-expression, and that’s what your social content should be about.
It’s really not about you.
Why? Because nine times out of ten when someone shares something they are doing it to express themselves. The fact that they are promoting you by sharing your content is just a side effect of their desire to say something about themselves. When you create affinity – a connection based on similarities – with your readers, they will be inspired to share your work because it helps them define themselves.
A person’s social media presence is a reflection of her interests, preferences, and beliefs. Just as someone might decorate her home or accessorize her outfit to express who she is, so she will “decorate” her social media presence with content that performs the same function. If you can provide content that helps her tell the world who she is and what she’s about, you’ve just increased your chances of getting the share and going viral.
But, that’s just for LOL cats, right?
Wrong. Are you only about the funny videos you share? I didn’t think so. Let’s think about why you share different pieces of content:
- It’s about something you’re interested in. At the most basic level, we share things that interest us. If we like cooking, we might share recipes. If we’re into simplifying, we might share Zen tips and quotes. If we love the outdoors, we might share beautiful nature photos. This is the simplest form of flair. It’s an extension of Facebook’s “Like” button – proclaiming to the world that you’re diggin’ whatever you’re sharing.
- It might be helpful to your friends and followers. At the next level, are things that you think might benefit your friends and followers. If you’re a writer with a bunch of writer friends, you might share content about writing tips, literary contests, or your new favorite book. Sharing this type of content is how businesses build an audience – providing value through useful content. This flair says, “I’m knowledgeable, connected, and helpful.” It helps express expertise and a supportive personality.
- It made you smile, laugh, cry, or fume. Content that creates an emotional response is viral gold. Whether you are inspiring joy, laughter, tears, indignation, or rage, if you give people something that touches their hearts, your chances of getting shared just went through the roof. How many times have you shared content about a cause that’s important to you, a news story that made you so angry you wanted to write a letter to the editor, something that made you laugh out loud? These things touch us as human beings, and – as social beings – we want to share them. We want others to know what moves us, what we care about. We want to share the experience with them.
- You could have written it yourself. Finally, there is the content you share because you just couldn’t have said it better yourself. This content combines all three of the other viral attributes – it’s about one of your interests, is inherently valuable to your friends and followers, and it most likely moved you emotionally. This content rings so true for you that you feel like the author crawled inside your head. This is the ultimate flair because it really helps the reader express herself. You’ll often see this kind of content shared with notes like, “made me cry” or “you must read this” or “couldn’t have said it better myself.”
This is just the beginning.
Though getting your content shared is great, it’s just one more step on the road to building the kinds of relationships that grow your business. This is a topic for another post, but think about the path that people take from becoming aware of you to becoming interested (a prospect) to becoming a customer. At first they might just read your blog or follow you on Twitter, then they might subscribe to your feed and maybe comment. When they start to share your content, you know you’ve taken the relationship to the next level – they are now willing to say, publicly, that they like what you’re doing. They are putting their stamp of approval on you and recommending you to friends. That’s a big deal.
Connect with people on the topics that matter to them. Bring yourself to the conversation in a way that proves you get it and you care. Be helpful, and be real. Don’t be afraid to “go there” once in a while. If you can reach people on these different levels, you’ll start to see more sharing. Hurrah!
A little exercise:
As you journey around the social web, take note of the content that gets a lot of attention and shares. In some cases, the content will fit neatly into one category – interesting, helpful, emotional. In other cases, there will be overlap, or it will fall into the “I couldn’t have said it better myself” bucket. Notice which types of content resonate most deeply with your audience and then think about the content you could create to reach them.
Love to have you share some of your finds in the comments!