How To Help Your Content Get Clicked, Read and Shared Online

I conducted a very simple A/B test not long ago.

I wanted to try and see what type of post would gain more traction online – specifically on LinkedIn – on an influencer marketing topic that I recently researched.

I was interested in finding out how people interact with link-based posts vs. plain-text posts. Both would feature the same information. (For reference, I have 2,800 connections on LinkedIn).  

Test #1: Full Article

First, I researched and prepared an 1,800-word article on the subject. It was rich in insight, included imagery, and referenced reputable third-party resources through hyperlinks. I wrote it originally on WordPress but later published it to LinkedIn Publisher. By default, with that publish, there was a post that went out featuring an accompanying image and a direct link to the LinkedIn article.

Results: 43 views, 9 likes, 0 comments.

Test #2: Plain-Text Post

I then decided to summarize all the info within the 1,800-word post and re-publish it as a short, plain text post. This time, I would give away all the need-to-know answers, bullet it for better readability, and include no link or photo. It was 200 words total.

Results: 945 views, 17 likes and 2 comments.

Test #3: Results of the Test

Finally, not to get too  “Inception-like,” but I thought the test I ran was quite telling and decided to do a third post. This time, it wouldn’t focus on the influencer marketing topic, but rather, the results of the above test. It would also be a short, plain text post and include my data points.

Results: 3,003 views, 49 likes, 14 comments

In reviewing the results and thinking through the style (and information) of each post, I think there are a few important takeaways here…

1) People are LAZY

It’s common today for marketers to make the big claim that “humans now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish!” Okay. That may be true, but let’s consider what that actually tells us.

  • People are looking at [most] content for a very short amount of time.
  • You only have a few seconds to impress them and get them to commit to spending more time with you.
  • You can’t ask for actions that require TIME without REWARD (even if that reward is simply education or entertainment).

Many marketers are solely interested in driving people off social and onto their sites. Why? Because that’s where a sale or conversion can take place.

But you wouldn’t walk up to a stranger at the bar and immediately ask them to come to your house. You’d probably talk at that bar first, then ask for a coffee date, then maybe dinner at a restaurant for a third date, etc. – before a house date.

So why are we not having conversations and communicating with these users directly on the platforms where they are?

What I’ve noticed over the years is that people prefer to stay within the confines of the platform they are on. For example, they would rather watch a native Facebook video than click and be brought to YouTube to watch it (I’ve tested this multiple times).

Beyond video, an even better example is Instagram Shopping where large e-commerce brands are building systems where purchases can take place right on Instagram without breaking that session. I think this will ultimately lead to greater social-related sales. We are lazy creatures and want to get information quickly and easily, and anything that disrupts that flow isn’t ideal.

So, all this rambling leads to two important recommendations:

Sometimes short, simple posts generate better results. But remember, short, simple posts don’t always take less time to prepare. I believe Albert Einstein was the one who once said: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” You’ll still need to research, you’ll still need to analyze. It’s not that your plain-text posts should lack substance or richness, it should simply be short and to-the-point to help give people what they want faster.

Keep as much content on the platforms themselves as you can. Only direct people to your website (or other relevant places) when it makes sense. That is: when it can’t be contained within the platform due to restrictions (ex. videos that exceed 1 min on Instagram) or after you’ve done enough “dating” and you feel they are ready to come over. Like in sales, you need to raise awareness, then nurture, and then strike with the offer when you believe it’s the right time.

2) You Have to TEST

Even if you have a very good understanding of your target audience, even if you’ve built out buyer personas and know what makes them tick, even if you have been working directly with these customers for years, it’s still nearly impossible to predict how they will engage with the majority of your content online. The only way to move beyond gut instinct or educated guesses is through testing.

The test I did was pretty simple and clear cut. And it provided some good data. If I continue to run similar tests, I can gain even more valuable insight. Turn that data into digestible information that you can reference later.

You must classify your content and measure its impact.

First, do this over a full quarter period. It needs to be long enough where a variety of content types will have been published. If you are posting 4 times a week on Facebook, that’s going to be 52 posts that you will analyze.

Pull all of your data into a spreadsheet. You’ll want the following stats included for each post:

  • Total impressions
  • Total engagements
  • Engagement rate
  • Cost per engagement
  • Total clicks
  • Cost per click
  • Click thru rate
  • Total conversions
  • Conversion rate
  • Cost per conversion
  • Total cost

Now, you need to add columns for classifications and content types. If you’re a restaurant brand, you might break it down like this:

Classification:

  • Food
  • Health and Wellness
  • Promotions
  • Community/Goodwill
  • Events
  • Staff

Content Type:

  • Plain text
  • Link
  • Photo
  • Video
  • Animation/Gif
  • Offer
  • Other

Now run analyses on the content by groups. What trends do you see? Do food posts produce the best levels of engagement? Do promotions produce the most conversions? Do plain-text posts produce the best cost-per-click? (Just kidding, there is no click). Spend time filtering and examining the best and worst of your quarter’s posts. Adjust future efforts based on your goals and what you’re seeing. Your data will vary by brand/audience, thus, not everyone will see the same trends.

3) Man Bites DOG

It should come as no surprise that if you’ve posted 1000 photos to Instagram, the ones with the most likes and comments might be… your graduation photo, your first wedding photo, a photo of the first day at your new job, or the first photo of your newborn baby.

These photos stand out.

They aren’t everyday life. They aren’t everyday occurrences. They are unique, memorable, and worthy of extra praise.

Now put on your marketing cap.

You always need to be thinking about what that “wedding photo” might be for your business to help really stand out, get noticed, garner engagement, and make an impact.

Like a major life milestone, they don’t come every day. There’s going to be “filler” content to help stay top of mind. But you should always be brainstorming and working your killer creative ideas into your strategy and your content calendar so you can bank on when these big splashes might be.

There’s a reason my third post – the one with the test results – produced far more views and engagement than the previous two. It’s a case study. It’s real, first-hand primary data. It’s something that one might not easily come by. So it stands out, and it’s useful news too.

So what might make a big impact? Take into consideration events that you participate in, sponsorships, volunteer days, staff promotions, discounts and offers, etc. Anything that stands apart from everyday brand life.

Let’s call it the 80/20 rule. 80% of your material should be organic, everyday filler content. It should still be relevant, and high quality, but it helps fill the gaps. 20% should be those campaigns and “big moments” that stand out. This balance is really in place for two reasons:

  1. To conserve cost. If every day you had an amazing video or a cool animation, you’d quickly run out of resources. Most marketers or marketing teams simply don’t have the time and talent to make every single piece of content that stellar.
  2. To make the stellar posts stand out even more. You don’t get married every day. When you do, people notice. This balance ultimately drives an overload of action on your best material.

Conclusion

Digital storytelling is a big buzzword in our field today, but it’s a real thing. Consumers are tired of one-way communication from brands and the high-pressure sales messaging that comes with traditional advertising. They want to be talked WITH, not talked TO.

I think good digital storytellers take into consideration all that’s referenced above. These marketers consider their audience when posting and the type of content that will resonate best. They consider creativity and put extreme thought into their efforts. They measure and lean on facts to drive future decisions within their content calendar. They’re strategic and organized and every post serves a purpose. They focus on entertainment and education rather than buy, buy, buy! Most importantly, they keep in mind the buyer’s journey – slowly reeling people in before it’s time to talk business.

Keep in mind, it’s a funnel.

Most people are at the top (awareness), some are in the middle (research, consideration) and less are at the bottom (decision, renewals). Your content should reflect this.

60% of your material should be top of the funnel, 30% middle of the funnel, and 10% bottom of the funnel. If you are supplementing your efforts with advertising – and using specific targeting and remarketing parameters – you can do a better job at serving the right content to the right audience at the right time.

Digital storytelling is simply social media marketing with strategy and structure. Done right and it will help your content get clicked, read, and shared, and entice consumers to slowly become buyers over time.