9 Steps To Master Social Media Sharing Like BuzzFeed

Be platform neutral

Social media landscape has shifted. Investing time and money into organically running a Facebook fan page is a waste of time. You completely depend on Facebook algorithms to reach the people who like your page, but Facebook doesn’t care about you. Did you notice a big drop in your page post reach and engagement over the last couple of years?

Facebook is squeezing the content reach. You can expect your organic reach to be a low single-digit number. Facebook wants you to pay to reach people who like you and that have agreed to hear from you. Similar can be said for Twitter and other social media platforms. Impressions and engagement numbers on Twitter are in most cases even worse than on Facebook.

We should not complain about Facebook and other social networks though. Don’t forget that Facebook’s a business, not a charity organization. Their main goal is to make money for their shareholders and they can do whatever they want with their own site. Accept this, be smart and work around the limitations.

There are more than one billion people using Facebook every day. It’s a major player and can help you get your content in front of more eyeballs. Here’s how you can evolve your social media strategy to use Facebook and other platforms to your advantage, just like BuzzFeed does.

Facebook update Q3 2015

Publish remarkable content

Quality content has to be the cornerstone of your social media strategy. Remarkable content is your key to going viral and getting your message across through social media. Aim to:

  • Create and publish content that thrills and delights people.
  • Content with a unique point of view and a unique voice.
  • Write irresistible headlines that are persuasive, make people curious and get them to click. Such as “how-to” posts and “list” posts.
  • Experiment with long form content. Create short form content too.
  • Content filled with amazing images and videos.
  • Content that is emotionally compelling.
  • Content that informs your audience, educates them and/or entertains them.
  • Content that makes people feel better or feel good.
  • Content that they just must share with their friends, family and network.
  • Publish content that has social sharing at the heart. See for example BuzzFeed quizzes.

BuzzFeed, the website that creates most shared content in the world, has these internal rules for creating content that gets shared:

Keep it short.

Ensure the story has a human aspect.

Give people the chance to engage.

And let them react.

People mustn’t feel awkward sharing it.

It must feel authentic.

Images and lists work.

The headline must be persuasive and direct.

Check out my complete guide to creating great content: Essentials for creating engaging and shareable content.

Diversify your presence when seeding your content

When you have published a new piece of content you need to give it a promotional push first. Without this seeding process your post will not spread to many people.

Don’t be platform dependent. Facebook might be big, but it is not the only place where people interested in what you do spend their time online. Do not over commit to one platform. Diversify your social media presence and seed your content to more places.

There may be platforms willing to dethrone Facebook by helping sites and brands reach their audience better. Go other places where your people are. Platforms without the organic content reach restrictions that could have benefits for your search engine rankings. Here’s what you should do:

  • Send the post to your mailing list.
  • Share it on your social media channels. Channels like Reddit, Pinterest, Instagram and StumbleUpon.
  • Explore Twitter and see how that works for you.
  • What about Tumblr?
  • Even check out Google+ and see if it works for you.
  • Publish the post on websites such as Medium.
  • LinkedIn’s publishing platform is another interesting option.
  • Go to bigger websites and syndicate your post there too.
  • Go to large forums and communities where your target audience is.
  • Even on Facebook itself you have an alternative to pages. You could run a Facebook group. More than 925 million people use Facebook groups every month now. About 60% of all Facebook users use groups too. Could a group give you a higher reach? Experiment.

Here’s the full list of places where you should promote your content after you’ve published it.

Evaluate which of the platforms you feel can help you get the best results. Use these platforms as vehicles to reach a new audience and help you drive people to your site where you can build a large following that you fully own and control.

Tailor the content to the network where it’s being viewed

To optimize your chances of getting shared you need to think about the audience and the network where you want your content to be viewed. BuzzFeed are masters of this. As of February 2016 the content that the company publishes generated more than 5 billion views monthly across all the platforms. They’re active everywhere from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, to Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and more.

Only 80 million of these 5 billion views are from U.S. visitors to their website. 75% of their content is published outside of the main website, on one of the social media outposts. Here’s how optimizing and tailoring the content to the network where it’s being viewed works for BuzzFeed:

A seven-step web recipe for slow-cooker chicken becomes a 46-second Facebook video, and then a 15-second Instagram clip with the instructions written as a comment, and finally a Pinterest post with two images and a link back to the Facebook video. And if it’s going on Snapchat, it needs to be shot in portrait mode as well. It’s all the exact same recipe, but “we put it on Facebook, and we put it on YouTube, and we put it on AOL and Yahoo, and all of a sudden it’s 15 different MP4 files.”

Take, for example, the series about short-girl problems: It began with an article on the website that attracted more than 8 million views, titled “30 Awkward Moments Every Short Girl Understands”; it then became a scripted YouTube video (“10 Problems Only Short Girls Understand”); and ultimately it inspired a cartoon titled Trans Girl Problems that appeared on Facebook.

Attract visitors and loyal fans to spread the content for you

Word of mouth and social media are critical to the success of your content. People spend a lot of time in social media and it’s an integrated part of their daily lives. The decrease in organic opportunities through your own pages does not diminish the importance of social media in your marketing.

You should not focus all your efforts on building your social media profiles. You need to enable your fans to help spread your content on Facebook and other social media instead.

You need to figure out how to get your visitors to share your stories across the social channels instead of you sharing them through your official pages. Getting the fans of the content to do the marketing work for you is more authentic, trustworthy and gets you around the issue of low organic reach. So how do you do empower your visitors to share your content?

  • Facilitate sharing by including share buttons. Make it easy for them to share with their networks. Use one of the many WordPress plugins. Include prominent share buttons, such as Facebook like and Twitter tweet this at the top and bottom of your content.
  • Add inviting text-based call to actions to share on strategic points on your site and in your content such as saying “if you enjoyed this article, please share it to make more people aware of it”.
  • Add hover over image share buttons. If you create visual content add one of the plugins that allows visitors to “pin” or share images in other ways when they hover over the image. Plugins such as SumoMe help you do that.
  • Add mobile friendly one-to-one share buttons for your visitors from mobile phones such as email and messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Snapchat. WordPress plugins are always your friend with options such as this one.
  • Highlight most important points as quotes or quotes-on-image and ask people to share them. WordPress plugins such as Better Click To Tweet helps you do this.
  • Leverage social proof and show people how many others have found value and shared your content to increase the chance of them sharing it too. You do this by prominently displaying how many people have shared the article.
  • Build relationships with influencers who have an engaged audience be it in social media, on their own websites or in forums. Get them to share your content for you. One message an influencer sends to their list recommending your piece of content can result in a cascade of traffic and shares coming your way.
  • Always test and analyse performance. No matter what you do to increase the number of visitors to share your content, always make sure to track, analyse and figure out what works and what doesn’t. Look into your own Google Analytics data. Look at what your competitors do. Look at any big site that is popular or that you like. Identify insights that can help you understand why people read and why people share a piece of content. Implement these into the way you are creating content. BuzzFeed calls this process “data, learning, dollars“.

Start a mailing list to grow your own community

It’s better to build and own your platform and community rather than rent it. Don’t invest heavily in platforms you don’t control and own. You end up relying on someone else. Someone who doesn’t have your best interests at heart. De-emphasize asking your visitors to like you on Facebook as you don’t own nor control your Facebook page. Facebook does.

Email open rates are higher than reach and engagement on Facebook and Twitter with many marketers seeing open rates of 30%+. Do you run a mailing list? Having a direct communication line also means that you are free to contact your database at any time you wish in any format that you wish and the contents of your message can be whatever you wish.

Focus on building your own following on your own terms – this could be as loyal visitors to your site, subscribers to your mailing list and ideally your customers in your own database. Have a clear strategy on how you are leading a first-time blog visitor to become a loyal visitor by becoming an email subscriber.

You can use the “decrease in organic reach” situation as an opportunity and explain to your audience what is happening and how you would like them to help. Be honest and explain them that they won’t able to get all the updates by liking you on Facebook. Inform them why that is and help them make the right decision by inviting them to subscribe to your mailing list for example in order not to miss any updates.

Here’s my complete guide to starting a mailing list.

Communicate via mobile and web push notifications

Direct line of communication is so much more valuable as it gets your message in front of the eyeballs you care about. You can even go a step further from a mailing list.

Can you get into the notification bar of a mobile phone user? Notification bar is the most personal area you can get your message into. Everyone checks their phone notifications in real-time. It is as near as 100% “opening rate” or “reach” as it can get.

  • Can you get your users to install your mobile app and turn the notifications on?
  • What about getting people to subscribe to you via private chat apps such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, WeChat and Line?
  • What about getting access to a traditional mobile phone number that you can then contact via text messages?
  • What about sending web push notifications to your desktop users? Plugins such as OneSignal and Push Notifications For WordPress can help with that.

Boost your efforts with social media advertising

All this advice above doesn’t mean that I recommend you leave Facebook. Organic opportunities may be dead but there is still a lot you can do through paid means. Paying for advertising and paying to reach a targeted audience can be great for you.

Facebook allows such great targeted advertising options, which you cannot get anywhere else. Target by any interest, demographic or geographic. Target people who are lookalikes to your own database. Target people who have visited your blog through features such as custom audiences. It’s worth making a deposit and testing Facebook advertising.

By putting advertising spend behind some of your most engaging and shared articles you will find that your pay-per-click cost on Facebook ads goes down as Facebook ad costs less the more engaging a piece of content is. Facebook ads can actually be an effective and inexpensive way to reach your targeted audience. Identify your content that gets most shares in social media and content that people spend a long time-consuming and boost that content through social media advertising.

Just be strategic about when you use it. If you are a writer that focuses on providing great content for free, you probably don’t want to advertise and pay to reach people. It’s not good for your wallet, unless you have a goal for how to monetize that audience. You want the quality of your content to do the talking and spread the word for you. But what about when you have something to sell? In those cases it makes sense to use Facebook advertising and the targeting options it offers you to find people who want what you have.

Don’t just be everywhere all the time

The most common social media questions I get from bloggers regarding social media profiles are: How many profiles should I have? Which social media platforms should I be on? Plenty of the “social media experts” answer these questions saying that the best option is to be everywhere to get the biggest reach. I disagree with this.

My belief is that you shouldn’t just create social media profiles because of the buzz about the different platforms and because everyone else says they are using them and they are saying that you should be using them too.

If you are everywhere, you will end up nowhere. It may look impressive to people who are not very experienced in social media: “Wow, you have 300 social media profiles, good job!“ But having all these social media profiles doesn’t really mean anything. It means nothing at all actually for your goals, unless you main goal is to have too many social media accounts.

Creating too many profiles and covering all this ground is very ineffective way of spending your time. Trying to do too many things at the same time equals you losing focus. The results won’t be positive nor productive and you won’t get any closer to reaching your objectives or your goals.

You have experienced that when setting up an account at a new social media platform doesn’t automatically get you anywhere. You have zero followers and zero reach. Having a minor amount of influence on a large amount of inactive social media profiles is not something to write home about or something that will give you more traffic or more revenue.

Is there a need for a social media manager these days?

I spent more than seven years working in the social media and content marketing for a very large, public-listed corporation, but today I would argue that there is no longer need to invest in hiring a traditional, dedicated social media community manager to run your Facebook page or your Twitter stream. Someone in a more holistic role is needed.

Hire someone who can create great content for you (an engaging storyteller, a masterful designer, a data scientist or a videographer) that gets shared and increases your brand awareness. You could also hire someone who can run and optimize your advertising campaigns for best ROI on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

You could get someone who has a network and is a good relationship builder to get you closer to influentials in your field. Or get someone who specializes in customer support and can figure out how you can move your traditional CS over to social. Or hire someone who gets the big picture, can strategize and put the different trends together in your favor. Or get someone who can do it all.

These areas have so much more potential for getting you extra value compared to someone who is just paid to post on your Facebook page which now no longer gets much organic reach.

But what about if you are a person working as a community manager? It’s not all doom and gloom. You still have a bright future in this field. Keep learning and evolving. Get better at understanding analytics and data to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Get better at conceptualizing and creating content that people love to watch, consume and share.

Get experience in running Facebook advertising which deliver great value for money. Start identifying goals and reach those goals by focusing on the bottom line of the company you work for such as lead generation and sales through content and social media marketing.

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