For most business owners, who use social media, finding something to share on the Internet isn’t really a problem. From Facebook walls to Twitter trends to the myriad boards of Pinterest, chances are there’s always a piece of interesting, amusing, or educational content making the rounds every second of every day.
What can be difficult is finding content that’s relevant to your industry, speaks to your audience, and educates and converts your viewers—and, on occasion, helps to build your brand and authority. Funny cat videos are great, but they’re probably not going to do much to inform or captivate potential customers, unless you sell cat products.
Fortunately, you have a bevy of tools at your disposal to help you identify, analyze, and share content that fits your specific needs.
You might not think of Google Alerts as a prime source of shareable content, but when configured properly they can provide timely updates on breaking industry news, technological advances, or topics your Web analytics have revealed as especially interesting to your audience.
Google Alerts can also be used to monitor brands, competitors, and trends; and the application supports advanced Google Operators for ultra-customizable searches by result, location, and niche.
An oldie but a goody, RSS feeds bring the best of other sites straight to your reader or inbox. Subscribing to feeds from industry leaders, general business and marketing blogs, and competitor sites can help you find and share content that transcends (without duplicating) the content produced by “the other guy.” Choose valuable content that will educate your readers, or offer them sound advice.
The demise of Google Reader left quite a few RSS aficionados in the lurch, but apps such as Feedly, Scoop.It and Hootsuite’s RSS plugin have stepped up to ease the sting and keep RSS relevant.
News, Industry, and General Information Sites
Finding and sharing original, high-quality content is made much easier by avoiding aggregators and (most) user-generated content sites. The closer you can get to the primary source or creator of the content, the better, because it can help boost your credibility when you share it. Reputable publications and blogs from your industry are a goldmine of shareable content, as are news and other sites that cover topics of interest to your audience.
Another choice to consider is Reddit, the fabled “Front Page of the Internet”. While this site is built on user-generated content, its front page is often abuzz with compelling content, and serves as a great leaping-off point for brainstorming or tracking down content to its (ultimately shareable) source.
Where to Find Shareable Content
Great content is as close as smartphone or the search bar of your browser when you use sites and apps design to help you collect, organize, and share.
- Curata: Promising to “Feed your content need,” this content curation service offers a three-step process—Find, Organize, Share—for discovering and sharing content with your audience. They also offer a free reader tool that lets you start fresh with a new content profile or import your Google Reader data.
- Storify: Acquired by LiveFyre in 2013, Storify offers users the chance to “tell stories” using the Web. You can search for content from across your social networks, mix and match elements, add your own text and images, and then share your new story with your followers and customers.
- Flipboard: This mobile application lets you import content from all of your social media profiles and create “magazines” that can be shared with others. It also allows you to share individual pieces of content across your social networks, making it a popular and powerful choice for content discovery, consolidation, and distribution.
- Pagemodo: A combination content discovery application and social media management tool, Pagemodo connects with your Facebook and Twitter accounts. You can manage your cover pages, schedule posts for your own profiles as well as pages you own, and find and share content relevant to your followers’ interests using Pagemodo’s tools.
- Lumi: This content discovery site (and app) from the creators of Last.fm searches for content based on your browsing history. Lumi is a browser extension for Chrome that tracks and anonymizes your browser history, and then uses it to find and suggest shareable content that matches your interests.
Share Your Own Content
While educational content from industry sources and entertaining articles from related fields are an essential part of any social media sharing effort, original content from your business has a very powerful impact all its own. Creating and sharing high-quality, well-sourced infographics, blog posts, articles, and other material helps build your brand and authority, and gives you a platform to speak to your audience in your own unique voice.
Knowing when and where to share your content is just as important as knowing what content to share with which audience. Even the most fascinating content loses value if it’s shared poorly.
To get the most out of social media sharing, you must:
- Identify your target audience and their interests
- Share high-quality content that speaks to those interests, educates, and builds relationships
- Interact with your audience using the sites they prefer
- Identify the most popular times for sharing on each platform, and plan your own content distribution accordingly
Social media sites fall into two broad categories: ephemeral, constantly-updating sites like Twitter, and single-serve sharing sites like Facebook and Google+, which are more archival in nature than the stream-of-consciousness that is Twitter.
Make the Most of Twitter
The Twittersphere is a fast-paced and continually evolving environment. Sharing content can feel like putting a message in a bottle and tossing it into a raging river, hoping someone, or even anyone, finds and reads it. Twitter’s mutability can work in your favor, however, if you use the correct tools.
Applications such as Tweriod can help by analyzing your Twitter activity (and that of your followers) to determine the best times to share a post. Because Twitter connects people all over the world, and is constantly updated, sharing your content just once limits your impact. But, armed with analytics, you can make smarter choices about sharing both original content and content from others.
For example, if Tweriod finds that you have only ten followers active at 5 AM on Monday (your time), that might not be the best time to announce your new product line or a persuasive blog post. But if you see spikes in follower activity at 10 AM, 1 PM, and again at 4:30 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays, posting at those times will most likely yield greater returns from interested (and present) followers.
In addition, it’s not only acceptable, but recommended, to share good content on Twitter more than once throughout the day to accommodate followers in different time zones. If you’re based in New York City, and you tweet your latest blog post first thing in the morning, it’s likely that people in California will miss it. By the time they start their days and log into Twitter, your post has come and gone, replaced by the thousands of other tweets that followed it.
Space out three to four tweets to cover different time zones, including an “in case you missed it” for good measure. Use this sparingly, though, for your best content, and most often for your own content or important industry news rather than smaller items of interest.
SMART SHARING TIP:Understanding the general ebb and flow of Twitter (and all social media sites, really) is useful as well, since it gives you a tactical advantage. Knowing the most (and least) active periods of Twitter’s entire user base as well as those of your followers and visitors to your site allows you to share specific content at specific times for maximum impact.
What do all these sites have in common?
Unlike Twitter, these sites are all single-serving shares. When you share to sites like Facebook or Google+, you’re sharing not just in the moment, but for the foreseeable future and beyond. It’s critical to understand the best time and day to share on sites like these, because you only get one chance to make an effective impression. Stacking up duplicates like airplanes over O’Hare isn’t going to win you any friends. It makes you look like a bot or a spammer, and damages your credibility accordingly.
A post to Facebook, for example, will remain visible on your profile forever (or at least for the life of your profile, unless you delete the post or change its visibility settings). And it’ll feature in your friends’ newsfeeds, depending on their settings, for as long as it’s fresh, which is to say, until it stops attracting interaction from readers, is replaced by fresher content, or three hours (on average) have elapsed.
Even after it’s been replaced, it still lingers on as a part of your page or profile, so repeated posts may come back to haunt you if someone’s taking a leisurely scroll and notices you have seventeen copies of the same Mashable article shared on your Facebook wall, or multiples of the same photo in your Instagram feed.
A number of companies have developed analysis tools to help you make the most of sharing to single-serving sites. Analytics site GoSquared, for example, offers both real-time and historical data to help you build a posting schedule around traffic trends while also allowing you to take advantage of spikes or lulls in site activity.
In many cases, social media sites themselves offer analytic tools to help you schedule content sharing. For example, Pinterest, like Facebook, offers its own analytics service for businesses.
When it comes to sharing content on a single-share site, you must also make sure it:
- Is relevant to your site and industry
- Is credibly sourced
- Is connected to your business specifically
- Invites dialogue and interaction on your social media pages and your main site
Start with Facebook and Google+, then move on to sites like Pinterest and LinkedIn. Remember though, to spread out your posts to avoid cannibalizing your own posts and limiting their effectiveness. And if you use apps such as Buffer, Hootsuite, or TweetDeck to automate your posting, be sure to customize your posting schedule to avoid duplicates on single-serve sites.
SMART SHARING TIP: The one exception to this single-share rule is your own original content. Adding an extra share can help boost traffic to your site at key times. For example, if your analytics reveal that Thursdays at 10 AM is the time your site draws the most traffic, then definitely share original content from your site to your social media accounts at that time. But adding another share when your site’s drawing the least traffic—let’s say Tuesdays at 7 PM—accompanied by a friendly “In case you missed it…” can pull in visitors you might not have otherwise attracted.
As with Twitter, identifying lulls in site activity as a whole (rather than specific to your page or followers) can give you a tactical advantage. The number of users will be lower during these times, but you’ll also have far fewer competitors vying for the attention of those users, giving you an outstanding opportunity to connect with new customers and readers.
Using the Tools
Taking advantage of the capabilities offered by social media management tools gives you an edge, both in discovering content and sharing it with others. Three of the most popular and powerful applications for doing so—Hootsuite, Buffer, and TweetDeck—can be used individually or together to help you make the most of your social media sharing.
HootSuite—This utility is ideal for managing multiple social media accounts simultaneously.
- Three plans available: Free, Pro, and Enterprise
- Lets you update and monitor all your social media accounts from a single application
- Allows automatic scheduled updates across accounts and to individual profiles
- Includes analytics reports to help you track activity on your accounts and accounts you follow on multiple social media sites
- Team feature lets multiple people contribute to and manage accounts
- Integration with a wide range of social media sites and applications, including Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and more
- Mobile app, custom link shorteners, and browser integration available
- Pro and Enterprise plans offer additional features such as message archiving, geo-targeting, and advanced technical support
- Free 60-day trial
- Feature set is limited with Hootsuite’s free plan; no teams, basic integration, and only 5 social media accounts
- Enterprise feature set may be overkill for small or new businesses; Enterprise plan can be quite expensive, depending on the upgrades and features purchased
- Adding team members and purchasing advanced analytics can quickly become expensive.
Buffer—This relative newcomer to the social media scene has features similar to Hootsuite. However, Buffer’s simple, powerful integration across multiple sites and application make it an outstanding choice for both scheduled updates and sharing on the fly as you surf the Web.
- Free, Awesome, and three-level Business plans available
- Lets you schedule updates across all accounts or to individual sites and apps
- Sharing can be planned using the scheduler, or done on the fly while browsing via plug-ins and extensions
- Detailed analytics help you track your account activity and that of accounts you follow
- Team feature lets multiple people contribute to and manage accounts
- Integration with a wide range of social media sites and applications, including Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and more (plus extensions for browsers such as Chrome and Firefox)
- Awesome and Enterprise plans include extra features, unlimited posts, a greater number of social media accounts (up to 12 for Awesome, and up to 150 with Business), and team management (two team members for Awesome, up to 25 with Business)
- Free 7-day trial for Business plans
- Free plan is limited to only one of each kind of integrated social media account (e.g., one Facebook profile, one Twitter account, etc.); posts are limited in scope, timeframe, and number
- No free trial with Awesome plan
- Google+ Profiles are not currently supported (Google+ Pages are supported, however)
TweetDeck—This application is ideal for companies who want a powerful and flexible way to manage their Twitter accounts, track follower activity, and share content to the Twittersphere.
- Customizable tweet scheduler for targeting specific audiences
- Powerful filters and custom columns let you sort followers and content by keyword, create lists, and track trends for better sharing and content collection
- Support for both Twitter and Bit.ly link shortening
- Available as a mobile app, browser extension, and desktop application
- Twitter-only; no integration with other social media sites or applications
- No analytics or connection with other social media apps means you’ll need one or more additional application to help you maximize your sharing success
Finding and sharing great content doesn’t have to be a struggle. Be sure to use quality content that’s both fresh and relevant, and keep tabs on your audience’s interests and online activity to find inspiration.
Remember that sharing isn’t just about broadcasting–it’s about starting and encouraging discussion. Sharing content with your audience is just one more way you can connect with them, and work toward building long-term relationships.