Close your eyes and imagine a perfect world. Your audience never misses a post because your content is so interesting and entertaining. They can hardly wait to share it. Your reputation as the industry’s premier resource spreads. Your Google ranking and retention rate improve as more traffic and members come your way.

David Carr at the New York Times knows that perfect world:

“Hit the right note, and your readers become like bees, stopping by your site to grab links and heading back out on the Web to pollinate other platforms.”

Your content will create that type of buzz if you pay attention to a few key steps.

Understand your audience’s culture.

Associations are made up of many communities based on demographics and professional interests. The online community is likely very different than the volunteer leadership culture you’re used to. Take some time to get to know them – the online community citizens, influencers, connectors, creators and conversationalists. Get a sense of their hot buttons and accepted truths. Find out what they read and share, and what fascinates and irritates them.

Listen and learn about their needs and interests. Participate in conversations. Ask questions. Become a trusted member of the community. Without that trust there’s no chance of success.

Build your audience.

You need “regulars” – readers whom you can count on to share your content. Only a small percentage of readers will ever share, so improve your chances by increasing your readers, subscribers, Twitter and Google+ followers, and Facebook fans.

Nurture your online community. Pay attention to what they’re doing, comment on their blogs and engage them on Twitter.

Build relationships with other bloggers in your industry. Share their content and comment on their blogs. They’ll start paying attention to your work and do the same for you, if your work merits it.

Be a trusted content source.

Steve Drake says, in a “content-fried” world, associations would be wise to curate content for their members. “Saving members time is a vital member benefit now and in the future. Your goal is to find and share with your members what is relevant to them.”

Gain trust by being real and relatable human beings, not a faceless institution. Give your staff the freedom to use their own names and show their personality. You’ll know you’ve succeeded when members look forward to meeting them at the annual conference. Your ROI metric is a Twitter hug.

Tap into motivations and egos.

We share content that boosts our social capital. Our personal brand and value to others is partly defined by the content we share. Andrew Hannelly at TMG Custom Media says, “Content that makes people in the know, ahead of the game, or well-informed is content that they will share to boost their reputation (and maybe a little bit of their ego).”

We share content that:

  • Helps us solve a problem, improve our business or move forward in our career.
  • Makes us think, shows us a new perspective or prompts community conversations.
  • Appeals to our emotions, makes us care, moves or inspire us.
  • Makes us laugh.
  • Makes us look really smart and with it.

Make it share-licious.

Appeal to our egos, we love the attention and will share those mentions. Quote influencers. Interview experts. Review books and products. Do a weekly “best of” and link to other posts, podcasts, videos or webinars.

Jonah Peretti, creator of BuzzFeed, says “there is nothing more viral than news that no one else has, so it makes sense to create some.”

Or, if you can’t create your own news, hop on someone else’s and provide your unique perspective. Add newsjacking to your repertoire.

Have some fun and jump on the latest meme. Think of how much traction the Sh** Girls Say and What I Do memes have had. When done well, timely and topical always work.

Be provocative. Question the status quo, or, if you are the status quo, invite others to do so on your home turf. We’re American, we love rebels.

The nitty gritty of shareable content

What else can you do?

  • Create “magnetic headlines.” Not always easy — the headline muse is a fickle creature.
  • Add sharing buttons to every piece of content on your website or blog. Test them to make sure they work.
  • Offer email and RSS subscriptions.
  • Make your tweets retweetable – keep them well under 120 characters.

Check out these blogs for more content sharing advice:


Deirdre Reid, CAE is a content junkie who takes her role as curator quite seriously.