The Psychology Behind Content that People Want to Read and Share

Don't Be Scared To Share Homie!
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Have you ever wondered why does some content get read and shared like crazy, while some doesn’t? Internet marketing and content marketing go hand in hand; specially at the beginning of our careers we have certainly wondered why our awesomely written posts with the clever turns of phrase are not spreading like wildfire on nitro mode.


Image credit: BuzzFarmers @ Flickr

Well here’s your answer to why your content doesn’t get read or shared and how you can make that happen.

Do your blog titles evoke curiosity?

Curiosity is the gap between what we know and what we want to know. Therefore, do the blog titles that you share on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin promise to tell the readers about something they don’t know and want to know. Which means, you have to understand who your readers are, what their levels of expertise in your niche is and what would they like to know and then promise to tell them in a succinct headline.

Does your content deliver?

Fine, so you’ve evoked curiosity in the reader’s head and she/he clicked through to your post. Now, does your content deliver the goods? Most writers and blog admins strongly believe that the stuff they generate is awesome, however, unfortunately there is a mismatch between their perceptions and those of the reader. Because what they feel is awesomely useful is usually thought of as “yeah ok whatever” by the readers.

To resolve this, first of all let go off your views and simply install a trial version of any voting plugin on your blog. At the end of your post, ask readers if they liked what they read and if it was worth sharing. This simple action will tell you more than anything else.

Does your content massage the reader’s ego?

Image credit: o5com @ Flickr

Like it or not, but we humans are selfish little beings. Being a marketer, it is essential for you to harness that fact. So ask yourself this question? When readers share your posts, will their network think of them as smart, as following and reading something that is deeply insightful and as being on top of it?

You see, when people share your content they are endorsing it. And no one wants to endorse something that will make them look stupid in front of their peers and network. In fact, I have a feeling that one reason The Economist’s articles are shared is because we believe they make us look smart in front of others. Point being, your content must make the person who shares it look cool, intelligent or being at the top of her/his game.

Let’s take a live example of this. Do you know why content that talks of the latest updates in Google’s Search Algorithm get shared so much? One, because it is very very relevant to readers and their businesses, and secondly, when people share it they display to their professional network that they are in sync with the industry and are in a way providing value by sharing it with those who need it but might not have read it.

And that right here ladies and gentlemen, are the psychological underpinnings of great content. To reiterate, they are

  • 1) Evoke curiosity through your headlines
  • 2) Deliver on it through great content
  • 3) Make it shareable by making it good enough so that the person who shares it is proud to do so

What do you think?
Is there something I’ve missed out? Can more be done? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Bio: Siddharth Deswal works at Visual Website Optimizer, the world’s easiest A/B testing software. He’s been involved with web development for about 8 years and actively looks to help online businesses discover the value of Conversion Rate Optimization. He tweets about A/B testing, landing pages and effective marketing tips on@wingify

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  • Lydia Brown

    Garen sometimes I figure out my headline first and sometimes the content is clear in my head. I do use Google Keyword search but it isn’t always easy to have that eye catching headline and then live up to it in the content. So for now I am concentrating on improving my content. I do want to be interesting, helpful but all in all be me.

    • Garen Arnold

      Hey Lydia,

      I usually actually come up with my title at the end. The biggest key is does someone care enough to click on your article to read what you have to say. Improving content will make big impact on people returning to your site and lower your bounce rates :)

  • Jon R. Patrick

    Good reminders… I forget about massaging egos. :)

  • marquita herald

    Great tips Garen, and interesting comments as well. For the most part I come up with my title first because it helps to focus me on the topic – otherwise it’s too easy for me to go too wide. Some writers struggle to come up with enough content for their articles, I’m the opposite. I love the themes I write about and tend to want to over deliver – so the tighter I focus through my title, the easier it is for me to stay on track when I’m writing.

    • Garen Arnold

      Hey Marquita,

      I am like you and could probably write forever, but I don’t. It’s better to keep them shorter so you don’t overwhelm your vistors.

  • Anne

    Great reminder to write for the audience rather than ourselves if we want our content to be shared.

  • Yorinda

    Hi Garen,
    yes, curiosity is a great drawing card.

    Writing about things that is of interest to people is always a good measure.

    Sometimes we may just write something that only grabs the attention of a few people and that is ok too, as long as it is just occasionally.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    • Garen Arnold

      Hey Yorinda,

      Every once in awhile I do something very controversial. Currently, working on a post for Hostgator. Not praising them at all. I really believe they are going downhill. Moved all my stuff away from them this week.

  • nick catricala

    thanks for your post…
    Yes, usually I get a headline when I first start to write an article… my content is organic since I go by what I feel at the time to write…

    But I know I need to have a better way to get a great headline to get others read and share the article much more… Thanks for your post.. it made me focus on that direction.


    • Garen Arnold

      Hey Nick,

      I would come up with 5 of them and pick which one you think will get the best CTR. This is a good post on writing headlines by CopyBlogger :)

  • Michael Shook

    I usually think around my headlines, titles and URL first, maybe not picking anything in particular but juggling the words and the format around in my mind and making a few notes. Then I write the post, and look back through my notes, do a bit of Googleing research and select the title I think is going to work the best.

    I send a lot of email too and that process seems to work pretty well for there as well.

    Your three steps breaks down a complex process into an easily understandable framework and that makes actually getting the writing done much simpler.