Every content creator fears no one will read their work. By contrast, the most exhilarating thing you can do in marketing is to write something that people read, share, and comment on. I speak from experience. There is no better compliment.

Last week, I told you about the upcoming keynote I’m giving on content marketing and shared some reasons why your library should be creating content. The more I write for this blog, the more I learn about the kinds of content my audience will read AND share. That second part is important. You want to reach new people and make them library fans. But what makes your content shareable?

I have five simple ideas for you. Each of these increase the likelihood that your content gets shared.

Write longer, compelling pieces. Seriously, the whole thing about how your audience only has the attention of a goldfish is bunk. They will read a 2,000-word post from you if it’s compelling.  People read whole books with 50,000 plus words! I don’t know why this myth of the “too-long content piece” exists when there is literally hundreds of years’ worth of proof that it’s not true.

If you tell a story in long form, with authentic quotes, an emotional arch with conflict and resolution, and a clear beginning, middle, and end, it will not feel like a long read. And a piece of content with all of those characteristics is also likely to be memorable. Great stories stick in our minds long after we read them. And memorable posts get shared!

Long form content is also better for your library’s search results. Back in 2012, serpIQ conducted a study involving more than 20,000 keywords. The results showed that the average content length of the top 10 search results was more than 2,000 words.

I have some evidence that this works personally. In 2018, I purposefully started writing longer blog posts here. Most of my posts land at around 1,000 words… not quite up to serpIQ’s standards but about 200-300 more words per post than I wrote in 2017. And guess what happened? My engagement stats increased by nearly 215 percent over 2017!

My library just started a blog two weeks ago. We will experiment with post length. And you can bet that I’ll push our writers to put out longer and more compelling stories, even if that means we have to publish fewer total posts. Write longer, more interesting posts and people will respond.

Be emotional. According to research from the journal Psychological Science, our emotional responses to content play a huge role in our decision to share that content. But all emotions are not created equal. The study shows people will share content that makes them feel fearful, angry, or amused. There is also a ton of evidence to suggest that people like to share content that inspires or contains a surprise.

Conversely, you should avoid creating content with negative emotions like sadness or even contentment, which tend to cause inaction. We don’t want that!

Insert images in your content. You may have noticed I’ve started inserting more images into my posts on this blog. That’s because adding images to your content is proven to increase the likelihood that it is seen and shared. My post popular post ever is this one, which contains three images. Those three images are strategically placed to emphasis the meaning of the words. They also break up the text for a visually pleasing read.

You must also use images on social media when promoting your content. This rule applies to all platforms. Your audience is visual and they want to see images in addition to your important words. The right image–one that evokes emotions or really serves to succinctly illustrate whatever you are saying in your content–will also make your content more shareable.

Write simply and conversationally. The more your audience understands what you’re trying to say, the most likely they are to share your posts. Define unfamiliar or difficult words, titles, or services. Go through the draft of your material and highlight words or terms that may confuse your audience. Then, find a better way to say or explain those words.

Never take it for granted that your reader has been a lifelong user or follower of the library. Words used by librarians to describe services, programs, catalogs, and databases may seem common to you and your staff. They are not common to your reader. Always explain. Then, ask a non-library employee to read your work. I often take my stuff home and ask my husband or my teenage daughter to read it. If they find anything to be confusing or convoluted, I know I need to change it.

Shorten your sentences and paragraphs. Shorter sentences will make it easier for your reader to understand and absorb what you are saying. The same is true with paragraphs. A piece of material with lots of long paragraphs looks thick and off-putting. Readers will skip lengthy paragraphs, according to British grammarian H. W. Fowler. In addition, the Poynter Institute’s Eyetrack Study shows people are more likely to read an entire web page when the paragraphs are short. And if you can get the reader to look at the entire post, it’s more likely that they’ll share the content.

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