Create an Emotional Reaction

High quality might be a requirement. But as Rand Fishkin points out, it isn’t enough.

Most people share content on social media for a bigger reason: because they have an emotional reaction to it.

Here are some of the best ways you can tap into emotions to boost your social shares:

1) Publish a “Man Bites Dog” story.

There’s an old saying in journalism: “When a dog bites a man, that’s nothing. When a man bites a dog, that’s news.”

In other words, people (and the press) amplify stories when they’re surprising.

Often, this just means framing your content a little differently. For example, the next time you publish a case study, try including the most shocking number in the headline.

Not: “Case Study: How Company ABC Used Our Product To Grow

But instead: “How Company ABC Grew 1,293% In 6 Months

2) Confirm (or disprove) assumptions or biases.

You might not expect a study about something as dry as top level domains to create an emotional reaction in anyone.

But a while back, I noticed that people were fiercely debating the difference between .com and newer domain extensions like .io, .app and .ai. According to some folks, the newer options were just as good. To other folks, anything but .com was garbage.

So I created a domain extensions study to tap into the fervor. And it quickly got shared a bunch of times by marketers and engineers. (And it picked up a good number of links, too.)

People love to be proven right — or to prove other people wrong. So when you create content on topics people disagree about, they’ll happily share it for you.

3) Stroke their ego.

Another big reason my domain extensions study landed well is that people used it to basically say:

“I knew it! Look how smart I am!”

No matter how successful someone is, they’re always happy to have their ego stroked.

An even more direct way to do it is to mention them in your work. And then when it goes live, reach out to let them know you did. If your piece is really good, they’ll often share it.

4) Ride a topical wave.

Another surefire way to get more shares is to connect your content to a subject that’s already getting a lot of attention.

One example is a content marketing piece called “Perceptions of Perfection Across Borders”. Which perfectly tapped into the public’s heightened awareness around body image.

As a result, it was shared over 33 thousand times on Facebook alone.

BuzzSumo and AllTop can help you find trending topics that are already getting lots of shares. So you can create content around them.

5) Tap into a feel-good emotion… or a negative one + surprise.

According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, the emotions most commonly associated with viral content are admiration, interest, and amazement.

The study also found that negative emotions like anger can go viral, but typically only when paired with surprise. Other studies support the combination of anger + surprise, too.