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What makes content shareable?

We can now expect most news to break online, and Twitter, Instagram and SnapChat all rang with conversations about Kim Kardashian’s bum, Ebola and Monty the penguin.

But how does any brand get their content to stand out amid this sea of snippets, and at the right time?

The impetus behind anyone making the decision to share content comes down to three elements.

Sharing triggers

The first thing is to understand what triggers us to share. These triggers boil down to:

  • funnyFunny
  • Sexy
  • Shocking
  • Moving
  • Unbelievable
  • movingControversial
  • Cool/awesome
  • Illuminating or interesting
  • Random
  • cuteZeitgeist
  • Cute
  • Uplifting
  • Disgusting; and
  • Nostalgia.

Or FSSMUCC(a)IRZCUDN if you like an acronym.

Examine the last things you shared on Twitter or Tumblr and they will fall into one or more of these categories.

It is because they have elicited an emotional response. It isn’t surprising that the most popular emotions shared (according to BuzzSumo) are related to positive emotions – funny, uplifting, awesome – people want to feel good and for others to associate positive feelings with the sharer.


But the emotion is not enough. It needs to be framed within a subject or topic, and if the topic jars with the emotion it can produce a misstep. Emily Thornberry’s tweet about Rochester is just one example of where the intent was humorous emotion, but the topic was offensive to a group (people from Rochester).

So what topics give you a better chance of your content being shared? Buffer identified that 85% of the topics that are highly shared are about food, home and lifestyle.


There is a third factor, and perhaps the most important element, which takes a piece of content from an enjoyable experience to one that you want to share.


What does sharing this content say about me, the sharer? When someone is sharing something part of the trigger to share may be to inform or influence, but it is unlikely they are thinking about your brand, but more about what it says about them.

The digital persona is something that is developed one word or image at a time. According to the Harvard Business Review, we speak on average 16,000 words a day. Unless we are in the public eye, these words are not often recorded and only a small percentage receive validation.

But the digital persona is a more permanent record. A user can take their time to craft exactly what they want to say and this can receive validation through like, retweets, shares and upvotes.


The need for social validation is becoming increasingly visible the world over. Ford’s 2014 consumer trend report found 62% adults worldwide report better self-esteem after positive social media feedback. Thailand’s Department of Mental Health issued a warning about young adult addiction to likes and the damaging effect unliked selfies can have on like-addicts’ minds.

The drive for social validation is actually good business sense. Social users who have gained large followings are able to monetise their channels through advertising or endorsements. Social celebrities like Zoella and Joe Sugg are even invited to sing on charity singles and go on tours.

So what does this mean?

A funny article about pizza is probably going to go a long way. You just have to look at Buzzfeed to see how true this is – they have published 49 in the last month and a half.

But seriously, we need to keep all three elements at the forefront when developing content if we want it to go further.

Ego, emotion and topic