Before sharing became a social media phenomenon, it was just an action verb. Children shared toys. Adults shared advice. People shared knowledge.
But those were simpler times. Fast-forward to today, and sharing has a whole new meaning. Now, when people refer to sharing they are often talking about the exchange of information or content in the digital space.
So what exactly is it that drives someone to click share? If I knew the answer I’d tell you. Unfortunately the formula isn’t that simple. So if you’re wondering why your organization isn’t getting more online shares, you’re not alone. People share content for a variety of different reasons. And while you can never truly know what inspires each citizen, here are a few suggestions that will help you create shareable content.
Be trendy. And no, I’m not saying you should buy those killer shoes you clearly can’t afford. I’m talking about keeping up with hot online topics. Create your content based on what is trending on social media. Stay informed about what’s going on in the news and incorporate it into your content. Who won last night’s big game? Which new album is all the rage? Who said what at the most recent awards show? You can usually find these trends on the top right corner of your Facebook dashboard or the left column of your Twitter feed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, for example, proved its trendiness in a recent article called “50 Years of Super Bowl and Food Safety Changes.” By making a connection between food safety regulations and a major sporting event like the Super Bowl that most Americans watch or at least know about, communications specialists at USDA succeeded in providing their audience with useful government information. The good news is that with the right resources, this model is replicable across many different agencies. Once you incorporate current events into your communication strategy, your audience will be more interested in what you have to say.
USDA blog post both engages and informs audiences by recommending food safety tips for this year’s Super Bowl festivities
Show how sharing content will benefit the public. Remember the phrase “Sharing is Caring?” People share content that is relatable. People share content that they know will impact those around them. They share because they genuinely care about a mission or a topic. So whether your agency is promoting an event or introducing a new program, emphasize how and why it matters to citizens. Having trouble putting these ideas into words? Check out VAntage Point, the official blog of the Department of Veterans Affairs. VAntage Point’s “Claims Corner” published a post in August about the importance of VA exams. It served as a call to action for Veterans to keep or immediately reschedule their VA exams so that they could receive faster claims decisions. This post communicates two key points. 1) VA offers programs through eBenefits and 2) eBenefits programs help Veterans keep track of their claims. This post is shareable because it promotes specific VA programs and explains why they are advantageous to citizens. In the end, drawing attention to advantages like these will end up benefiting your organization and your citizens. It’s a win-win!
VAntage Point blog emphasizes how VA programs benefit citizens
Highlight the Human Experience. Everyone loves a heartwarming story. People like to share social media content that makes them feel something, like a video of a soldier’s homecoming or a news story about a successful kidney transplant. That’s why your content should highlight specific examples of how your organization’s programs are making a difference in the lives of citizens. People are more likely to click share when they feel a personal connection. Take the Social Security Administration’s “Faces and Facts of Disability,” for example. This feature of SSA.gov provides detailed biographies and videos of real people who receive disability benefits. SSA highlights these “faces of disability” using a human, community-focused appeal, which drives a wider audience to action.
SSA’s “Faces of Disability” campaign features real stories from real people to boost citizen engagement
Be accessible. If digital communication were one of the seven deadly sins, it would be sloth. People are lazy. Most of us find it difficult to read an entire news article, and few can get through a full email message. So it won’t surprise you that many people also need to be guided when it comes to sharing content. Luckily, there’s a solution that’s simple and easy-to-implement: Integrated share buttons. Next time you send an email message to your audience or post a new article to your blog, consider inviting your audience to share by providing a social media button at the bottom of the page. You can even pre-populate tweets with content like “I just signed up for benefits and so can you!” or “Check out this article from [insert organization here].” This way, once your audience clicks all they have to do is press “Tweet.” If you are looking for some inspiration, check out the Center for Disease Control and Prevention blog series. Each article gives readers the option to repost via Facebook or Twitter. When people click on these social media logos, they are brought to a page draft with a link to the original article. Once they click “post,” they have successfully shared the article. Easy-peasy, right? Now you give it a try!
The CDC Blog encourages social sharing with pre-populated tweets like the one above.
In today’s online culture, it’s not enough to be liked. When it comes to digital communications, being likeable is nice, but being shareable is better. When someone likes your content, it means they appreciate your work. But when someone shares or re-tweets your content, they are passing it on to hundreds of other people because they believe in your cause. So next time you create a piece of content, make sure it’s shareable. Your agency and your audience depend on it. Now that you know the ins and outs of digital content creation, it’s time to get to work!
Author: Tara Lerman, GovDelivery