Suddenly Marketing

Brand Messaging | Content Strategy | Writing

The secret to getting your content shared

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!



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  1. Great post! Certainly that desire to decorate your social media presence with your personality is true in the SM professional environment as well. You’ve offered a twist on how to develop content that connects.

    • Jamie Lee

      Thanks, Karen.

      I’m a big believer that marketing – social or otherwise – is based way more in human psychology than in the latest bells and whistles. No matter how much technology we create and append to the process, it still boils down to a human interaction and decision.

      But I’m preaching to the choir. 😉

      Thanks for coming by. Nice to “see” you!

  2. Jamie,

    As always, it’s a pleasure!

    This is one of your best posts so far (I feel like I’ve said that before maybe..), and it’s so well written! Nice going.

    That is a great twist on the whole sharing idea: people share other people’s content because it says something about who THEY are, and all they had to do was share!

    It’s like you can learn a lot (sometimes, maybe often) about people by what kind of music they listen to. (Remember when you were in junior high and you wanted everybody to know that you liked The Scorpions? OK, maybe it was something else, but you know what I mean.;-)It was such a huge identity builder.)

    But it can tricky sometimes, too. Like, “Oh hey, you like the Beach Boys? Then you must be X.” Then… “What? You like Stravinsky, too? Hmm.. now what?” But that actually expresses personality and soul, as well – all that variety. It says, “Hey, I like a bunch of stuff, not just this!”

    So, yes, very interesting concepts explored here, with “flair” to spare, I might add! (Couldn’t resist!)

    Best wishes,


    • Jamie Lee

      The Scorpions, eh? 😉

      Each time you leave a comment, Peter, you introduce perspectives that send my thoughts off in new directions. I love your analogy about the music we liked in junior high (I won’t embarrass myself by waxing poetic about my choices). It highlights the question about “niche-ifying” our social streams … or not.

      My Twitter stream, for instance, is an eclectic mix of commentary about B2B marketing, entrepreneurial marketing, Big Life stuff, parenting, writing, and general social commentary on everything from the environment to American Idol. Some people woulds say that this weakens the effectiveness of my stream as a source of business leads, but I would argue that it presents a 3-dimensional, not-just-here-for-the-sale version of me that is truer to my Real Life self.

      Like your example of liking both the Beach Boys and Stravinsky, that type of mixed interests keeps people from putting you in a convenient and clearly labeled box. And you know how people like boxes.

      I still sit on the fence about this issue, but my compromise is to state in my Twitter bio that I’m “tweeting both biz & life.”

      Love to hear your thoughts on where to draw the line on what you share and if/how you segment it.

      … I feel another blog post coming on.

  3. As an aspiring writer, I often wonder how what I put on my “wall” will affect the platform I am trying to build, I am often overbearingly to the point, not vulgar or offensive, but I speak my mind and say what I want. I mean prospective employers are now looking at job candidates “walls” and do use it to make the hire/no hire decision in some cases, so it stands to reason that my prospective audience to some extent will do the same.

    • Jamie Lee

      One solution that many authors and other public figures use is to create clear boundaries between their personal and business “worlds” – having a personal Facebook profile for friends and family, for instance, and a business “Page” for their author persona. Other folks take a “this is who I am – love me or leave me” approach and leverage their “full” personality to connect deeply with a smaller audience who really “gets” them and who they won’t really offend.

      There are pros and cons to both approaches. You may want to experiment a little, or take a look at what other folks (whom you admire) do to handle the issue.

      Good luck!

  4. Jamie,

    Just stopping by to visit and ran across this post. GREAT info! Thanks so much. Heading over to subscribe right now!

    Have a great day!


    • Jamie Lee

      Thank you, Joy – for starting my day off with such a nice note, and for subscribing. You may inspire me to give this blog a little more love … it’s been neglected of late! :) Happy Friday!

  5. I’ve had your stuff in my reader for months but as a typical writer I’ve been avoiding really dealing with marketing. Wow, what a fool I was. You almost make marketing sound fun. I’m hoping for rain today so I can stay indoors and read more. Thanks.

    • Adrienne,
      Thanks so much for coming by and for taking the time to leave a comment. You could not have paid me a higher compliment than to say that I “almost make marketing sound fun.” That is exactly what I aspire to do. You have made my day. Thank you.

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