In the modern blogosphere, we create posts only to see them get shared, a lot. In the past, we were hoping to get backlinks to our posts, assuming they were actually helpful. Today, it's all about social signals. The reasons are clear: Social shares encourage more inbound traffic, they increase the blog posts' search engine authority--and they provide better social proof for your business than anything else you can do on your own.

You'll be shocked at what makes content shareable. You might have your mind blown or your eyes might pop out. And if you're lucky, you'll get to laugh after you cry.

OK, let's state the obvious. People share emotional content. And stories these days are peppered with emotionally charged words because emotion makes people share. A recent survey showed that on the global level, people wanted to share "interesting" things (61%), followed by "important" things (43%), "funny" things (37%), and then "to let others know what I believe in and who I really am" (37%) globally.

But that's not the whole picture.


A recent study, "What Makes Online Content Viral," surveyed New York Times articles and came up with some interesting results about emotion and sharing.

  • Highly arousing emotions drive sharing more than deactivating emotions. Awe, anger, and anxiety are more viral than sadness.
  • People share positive content more often than negative content.
  • Physiological responses to content can be a predictor of virality (e.g., the higher the physical response, the more viral).

Slidely performed similar research, drawing upon a few million videos created on its platform. It found that sad emotions (such as "RIP" slideshows) generated a huge amount of interest. For example, this Slidely about Corey Monteith's passing received almost 800 comments and 10,0000 Facebook shares.

Don't forget, more emotions mean more shares, but this isn't necessarily the path you want to go down these days. Strong words are losing their effectiveness as people use and reuse them in order to illicit an emotional response. Media sources are mocked as they overuse emotion to promote stories.

And it seems that people are feeling less and less outrage lately. One commenter on an Uproxx story about an "Auschwitz Selfie" commented: "Nothing anyone posts on Twitter is going to make me feel outrage. However, that is because I am completely dead inside. Thanks, Obama and Uproxx."

Not everything is mind-blowing, stunning, shocking, or amazing. Choose your words wisely and don't give readers a constant emotional overload. Use a thesaurus and some creativity to deliver uplifting stories of triumph and valor. You'll see better results with that type of content than you will if you focus on disaster, devastation, and danger.


People are more likely to share content about controversial items, although, recent research indicates that topics may be less likely to increase discussion. People may want to keep their opinions on controversial topics to themselves or discuss them only with people whom they know agree with their stance. And while people are on sites where their identity is open they are much less likely to discuss controversial topics than in anonymous forums.

If you're trying to use controversy as a means to gain shares, be sure that it represents your brand, your company, or your organization. If there's a controversial issue that naturally fits in with your content plan, go for it. Don't join a controversy for its own sake. Express yourself as you see fit, but avoid disgusting images and hate speech that could alienate people who don't agree with you as well as damage your own image.

Now Trending

One way to increase shares is to stay up to the minute with your content. Need help staying on top? Here are six places to find the trendiest topics:

As with controversial items, don't join the conversation if it isn't relevant to your brand or business. Create original content that relates to your brand and the trending topic or just share trending stories to reap the rewards of popular subjects. What's hot today is gone tomorrow, so catch the trend while it's just starting, not already ending.

To Conclude

Emotion, controversy, and trending topics are three top ways to get more shares. Content is powerful, particularly when you tap into these elements. Don't share or create content that is shareable but irrelevant to your brand or business. Provide your audience with relevant content that has real value and you'll be rewarded. If you do it correctly, they'll welcome and enthusiastically share your content.

Published on: Jul 23, 2014
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of