No one cares how many likes your content gets. Or at least they shouldn’t anyway.
Let me rephrase that. Social shares are important, but they shouldn’t create as much clout as we let them.
Somehow, we’ve transitioned into a period where the number of social likes and shares is correlated directly with the importance and usefulness of the article or blog.
That’s a broken system.
Yes, social shares are necessary to drive blog traffic and spread the word. I agree. But, does the amount of likes a post gets really dictate how valuable that content is? I’d argue no.
Why Do People Share?
In the most basic sense, people share content for three reasons:
1. To brag
This is by far the most common reason readers will share your content. Usually the scenario plays out like this:
- Reader consumes content (many times doesn’t even read the entire article) from a well-known writer/blogger/author
- Reader shares content to their social feeds
- Reader asserts their connection with the author and projects that they are similar to the author in knowledge/status/interest level.
The “braggers” are sharing content because they likely want their friends to view themselves as a projection of that author. Tim Ferriss gets a ton of shares from the entrepreneur/life-hacking crowd because they want to appear intelligent, business-savvy, and well-versed on biohacking.
To these individuals, the depth of the post doesn’t necessarily apply so much as the overall topic and the opinion of the writer.
2. To entertain
Have something funny to say? Put it on a post and if it’s formatted and shared correctly, it will likely go wild. Take, for instance, 27bslash6, the blog of satirist David Thorne. Are the posts informative? Hell no. I could spend an hour on that site (sadly, I have) without learning a darn thing. Most of the posts are David’s interactions with unfortunate customer representatives during which he goes on a long rant about bears in his yard (actually his dog dressed up in a bear costume).
I may not have learned a darn thing, but I was left in tears crying from laughter. So, I shared it – naturally. Similar to the brag approach, people share funny material so their friends think that they, in turn, are funny.
Forget the five people you spend the most time with. People would rather have you believe they’re a summation of the content they share.
3. To inform
Occasionally, people will share content simply to inform their friends and colleagues. This can happen with a new product on the market or just something they find extremely interesting.
For instance, awhile back, I posted on my Facebook about the awful smell that follows consumption of asparagus (if you’ve eaten the stuff, you know what I’m talking about.)
Without missing a beat, a very intelligent friend of mine dropped the solution: “If it smells when you urinate after eating asparagus you lack the ability to methylate folic acid. If you take a high quality methyl folic acid supplement it will solve that problem”.
Boom – mind blown. Information immediately shared.
Would You Rather Users Like or Engage With Your Content?
Nobody is saying that social shares aren’t important at all. Obviously, they’re necessary to help spread your content across the internet. In some instances, social shares are the focus for a particular article, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
The point is your content needs to have a balance.
If your goal is to eventually ever sell anything to your readers – a product, for instance, that would require them to click a link and fill out their billing information – your primary goal should be to develop a relationship with readers. You want them to trust you.
That happens through engagement and conversation – not through simply having a post with a thousand likes.
A good site has both content that gets shared as well as content that creates discussion. The art is balancing the two to drive traffic and find new readers while simultaneously maintaining and furthering relationships you’ve already built with consistent readers.
The take-home is to write content for engagement rather than strictly social shares. Yes, shares are a part of engagement, but not the most important aspect.
Write content that causes your audience to think and reflect. You may not get immediate shares, but you’ll build a trusting relationship that keeps them coming back for more.
For more on getting your content to go viral, I urge you to check out Viralnomics. Tons of free info on the site for getting your content and brand to spread.
So, sound off in the comments. Feel free to tell me I’m wrong.