Summary: Online readers cherry pick information from content, so in order to increase your social reach, make your posts easy to share and understand by creating shareable blog posts. Using summaries, scannable chunks of content and shareable quotes can make creating shareable blog posts even easier.
I hate to admit it – but I’m reading less. As a card carrying book geek, it pains me to say it. But at least I’m not alone. We’re all reading less, and it’s not for lack of opportunity. There are more opportunities than ever before to get information that we need, and as a result we’re running through it like a kid in a candy store, trying to get as much as possible as fast as possible.
On average, a site visitor will read at most 28% of the words during an average visit. As a writer this is equally as crushing as my realization that I’m reading a lot less than I used to. The time and energy that I put into content isn’t going to be read completely by the vast majority of people.
Content leads to viewers – but not necessarily readers. The right kind of viewers will turn into prospects, and a percentage of those prospects will turn into customers. But chances are those viewing and even sharing your content aren’t going to read the entire the entire 600 word blog post.
Even though very few visitors will get through the entire article, there are still some that will – so quality is important. But beyond focusing on your target marketing, covering topics that relate to them and offering good advice, you have to think about usability. What is going to increase the chances that your site visitors will glean enough information to share your content and bring you more visitors?
What Do Your Visitors Want?
According to Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group, web readers are “selfish” – they want to create their own experience by gathering together content from various sources. They follow their own inspiration and are less likely to follow a writer’s lead. That’s why we blog post hop. We start reading a post with a goal in mind, and then hop to another one if the post doesn’t fulfill our desires in the moment.
I’d argue that unless an author – or brand – has earned trust with us, we’re not going to pay them with our complete attention. There are several blogs that I read through entirely, but of the hundreds in my Feedly, most are just there for me to scan.
Your readers are cherry-picking information. If they can, on an initial scan, see that the information is valuable and well-written, they’re going to share it on social media. They may not even read it the entire way through, but if they are sharing it then the chances of having more readers increases.
This means that your online readers will fall into two camps:
- “Traditional” readers – the small minority that will read all of the way through your blog post, leave a comment, share your article and connect with your company (via email or social media)
- Cherry pickers – the majority that will read a portion of your blog post or scan it, and decide it’s worthy of sharing. They may or may not connect with your company.
You’ve got to write for both audiences if you want to maximize your blog’s potential.
How to Attract a Selfish Audience
It would be great if everyone took the time to read all the way through your blog posts. But chances are, that’s just not going to happen. You can take it lying down or you can meet those selfish readers halfway to increase your social media reach (and search engine credibility).
Here are three ways to attract cherry pickers and make social sharing more likely.
1. Start off with a summary.
Readers are more likely to share what they can understand, so make it easy with a summary at the top of a particularly long post (or short ones too). MarketSherpa does this frequently in front of their data-rich blog posts. If you just want the gist, you can focus on the summary and glean the most important information.
2. Create shareable quotes.
Your blog probably uses the standard social media sharing icons, but you can take this a step further by encouraging tweets of specific quotes. I’ve used Click To Tweet to create a shareable snippet in blog posts, but there are other options as well. When you create your own pull quote, you make it easy for those cherry pickers to share the most important part of your content.
3. Use content chunks to make your text scannable.
Eye tracking studies show that web readers use a backwards F shaped pattern when they are looking over a page of text. They concentrate on the top and then their attention wanes as they get further down the page.
You can use this to your advantage by chunking up your content, using formatting and create subsections within your blog post. Actionable Marketing Expert Heidi Cohen does this with each and every post, making her blog scannable – and actionable.
Reaching out to the cherry picking, social media audience will make your blog more shareable, scannable and authority building. People may be reading less, but if you know how to appeal to their “selfish” ways you can maximize your content’s impact.