It's now been just over three months since Google released it's +1 button into the wild. And it's safe to say publishers have gone a little crazy for it. Indeed, within a couple of months of launch, it has already taken the mantle as the second most popular social plugin on the web, surpassing even Twitter.
Facebook & Twitter have become serious traffic generators over the last few years, and publishers are now banking on Google+ being able to drive similar results. But here's the thing… social plugins alone don't send traffic.
How many sites do you see with 0 shares out there? A lot (including mine at times).
Installing social plugins is the easy part.
Creating content that actually gets shared is far more difficult.
If your site is sitting with 0 Likes, Tweets or +1's, it's time to rethink your content creation process.
In my experience, I've found three critical ingredients that are essential to concocting truly sharable content. And they go a little something like this…
Google's Panda update irked more than a few SEOs. But I loved it! If there's one thing that really gets under my skin when it comes to the web, it's content spam. Low quality crap that pollutes the Internet. The exact type of content you'd get from Fiverr. Or even worse, content that has been spun into oblivion. I can't stand it. And I refuse to hire any SEO who practices it (and was shocked to see how many SEOs practice it when I last interviewed candidates).
Low quality content stands no chance of getting shared. Ever. Because it offers no substance. People don't share content that sucks. They share content that is topical. They share content that is informative. They share content that is opinionated, funny, controversial or educational. So if sharability is one of your goals, start thinking about how you are going to create content that oozes substance. Answer difficult questions. Break a story. Solve customer problems. Make your audience laugh. Offer a strong (yet considered) opinion. Do something that's never been done before. Find a way to create something meaningful for your audience. It's the only way.
Investment is a byproduct of creating content of real substance. If you want the rewards (ie sharing behaviour), you simply have to invest the time. In the best case scenario, a sharable piece of content in the form of a blog post will take 2-4 hours to create. But only the select few will get away with such a minimal investment, such as Mashable and SEO Moz. They are in the fortunate position of publishing content that is consumed (and shared) by tens of thousands of people (but consider the time they have invested in their site before crying unfair).
For the rest of us, we have to work significantly harder to earn the attention of our audience, let alone get them to share our work. An average piece of content will rarely cut it, unless you're networked up to your eyeballs. Take a current project I'm working on as an indicator of the time investment that may be required to create seriously sharable content on a low trafficked site. As a starting point, we're investing two and a half days to research our topic comprehensively. Following that, we'll invest somewhere between 2-3 days to create a customised infographic. That's close to a week's worth of effort for a single piece of content. And while that may be at the more extreme end of the scale, it's not uncommon for businesses without a strong social following.
3. Seeding Strategy
The most overlooked piece of the content puzzle is often the content seeding strategy. Why invest a week into creating a brilliant piece of content, and then not tell anyone about it? Which is precisely where the content seeding strategy comes into place. In essence, it defines how you will distribute your content once it is published.
Of course, the most effective seeding strategy when it comes to facilitating sharing behaviour is to distribute the content via social media itself. But most businesses lack a truly engaged audience within Twitter or Facebook. If this is the case, it's possible to seed the content via more traditional channels. Linking to the content from your customer email newsletter is a great starting point. A press release is another compulsory option. And personally connecting with industry media contacts is absolutely essential. Their endorsement (aka link) is vital. You may even consider some targeted advertising in the form of banner ads, paid search or social ads if necessary.
But promise me this – don't ever sell your content short by failing to seed and support it!
I'm an online marketing strategist currently working for one of Australia's largest online agencies. I consult with our clients to develop holistic web strategies, while also managing the SEO and social media elements of the business.