This is part one of a two-part series evaluating the practice of soliciting shares in your marketing content. Be sure to read next week’s post for a further analysis of this practice.
If you’ve spent much time on Medium, the popular online publishing platform that connects authors with readers, then you’ve likely seen two things: First, Medium encourages readers to applaud an author’s excellent work by “clapping”; and second, authors frequently solicit feedback with a little blurb at the end of their post encouraging claps.
Carl Dombrowski, a Medium author that writes about artificial intelligence, solicits claps at the end of each of his articles and appears to have a strong response, though it is unclear whether that is due to his solicitation or some other variable. In the below example you can see his clap solicitation and the resulting 1,000+ claps he has received for the article.
What is clapping?
One of the grandest forms of flattery on Medium is to clap many times on a post. You simply click the clapping hands icon multiple times – up to 50 claps per person are allowed by Medium. As you can see above, some people solicit claps, and it often appears to work.
Medium isn’t the only place you’ll see authors soliciting social affirmation. It’s a common practice on private blogs, within Facebook, on Twitter… almost anywhere you can publish content. The share requests often come in the form of, “If you like this content, please share…” In preparation of a larger research topic, we evaluated the numerous ways in which these share solicitations are occurring and then chose the five methods we came across most frequently.
In the sections below I’ve provided an example of each of these five methods of share solicitation and explained, briefly, how marketers routinely leverage that specific technique in their marketing efforts.
On Facebook, perhaps one of the most common calls-to-action used by content marketers is to request a thumbs-up or a like. As you can see in this example, the individual that posted this content is attempting to play up on the excitement that surrounds an upcoming sporting season.
Click to Tweet
This solicitation to share content is a favorite among many marketers, because it not only includes a social call to action (Click to Tweet), but it also emphasizes text in the article that readers would normally find more interesting. The theory here is that it helps the content become more readable, and helps call out important content that readers would most likely find value in.
Highlight and Share
This technique requires a little more technical aptitude to implement than the earlier ones, as it often requires that you install a plugin to your CMS (i.e., Highlight and Share for WordPress). After installing the plugin, your readers can click to highlight any text in the article and are then presented with share options. This is a popular method in that it isn’t always taking up screen space, and yet is just a click-and-drag highlight away!
As discussed in the introduction of this article, Medium has a unique way of asking readers to show favorability towards a given author or article, through clapping. Claps can be given by simply clicking on the clapping hands icon. If you really want to show your enthusiasm for an article, you can click on the hands up to 50 times.
Dare You Not to Share
This is, sadly, a commonly used technique of garnering more shares on social media. This “dare you not to share” call-to-action is one that consumers are most often annoyed by (see survey findings below). That said, depending on your industry, this tactic may not be seen as spammy by your consumer niche and may be one you should try.
Why solicit the social affirmation?
On platforms such as Medium, claps translate into the platform ranking your post higher and showing it to other potential readers more frequently. According to Medium, “When ranking stories, [their] system will evaluate claps users give out on an individual basis, assessing their applause for a particular post relative to the number of claps they typically give.”
On social media platforms, such as Facebook, garnering likes and shares on a post makes that post more likely to show up in the stream of your fans and potential followers. As we’ve seen with Facebook’s recent controversial changes, though, their algorithms are constantly being tweaked to ensure that growth hackers can’t game the system and artificially gain undue impressions on their content.
Thus, many content marketers and SEOs I’ve discussed this topic with continue to ask the questions, “Why solicit social sharing?” and “Does soliciting social sharing really work?”
We asked the people, and here’s what they said…
To gauge the effectiveness of this practice, we’ve gone to the average Joe/Jill and asked them to weigh in, sharing with us:
- If they’ve seen share solicitations like those in the graphic above,
- What they think of the practice of share solicitation,
- And if they ever listen to the solicitation cues and share the content.
This random sample comes from English-speaking participants across the United States and Canada, with a rather even split of genders (51% male and 49% female) and a wide variety of professional backgrounds. We systematically polled an audience of the general public, without targeting marketers specifically, to ensure we weren’t damaging our results with responses from marketers that may have biases about content marketing strategies.
How often, when viewing content online, are you asked by the author of the content to share it?
The first question we asked was to set a benchmark for our audience, determining how often they come across marketing content that solicits a social share. The actual question asked here was, “How often, when viewing content online, are you asked by the author of the content to share it?” The responses can be seen in the graphic, with the responses being well distributed across the different frequency options.
That said, it is accurate to say that 82% of respondents indicated they see a “share this content on social media” type solicitation at least once a week.
Have you seen this kind of share request before?
The next set of questions we asked entailed whether or not the respondents had seen a specific type of share solicitation. The five types we asked about were the same as the five we discussed earlier in this article.
As an example of the specific question we asked at this stage of the survey is this query for the click to tweet technique: “Have you seen this kind of ‘Click to Tweet’ share request before?”
Interestingly, as you can see in the chart, the Facebook thumbs-up request was the most commonly seen, with 75% people saying they had seen it before. The least well-recognized method of requesting social shares was the Medium-specific one, with only 15% of the respondents saying they were confident they had seen a clap request before.
Have you ever shared the content after seeing one of these share requests?
When asked the question of whether or not the respondents had seen any of the social share requests, and then gone on to actually share the content, their self-reported participation level was astoundingly low. Only 12% of respondents indicated that they had shared content via one of the five techniques introduced above.
Of the five techniques, the thumbs-up approach on Facebook appears to be the most common approach that survey respondents participated in, with 29% of respondents having used this approach after having seen the solicitation. The weakest performing technique is the “dare you not to share” approach, which garnered only 4% participation.
How does this kind of share request make you feel?
Respondents of the survey also indicated that they were not highly enthused by any of these techniques. That said, on average the respondents were neutral about most of the techniques.
The technique that had the highest rating (2.08 out of 4) was the Facebook technique asking for a thumbs-up. The least favored technique was the “I dare you not to share” technique, which garnered only 0.87 points out of 4, setting it between unfavorable and very unfavorable on our measurement scale.
Do more claps and shares result in higher visibility of your marketing content?
As you can see from the survey findings above, consumer response is mixed when it comes to social share solicitations.
Some techniques are found to be more annoying than others. For example, the “I dare you not to share” approach was ranked somewhere between unfavorable and very unfavorable, while the others were ranked as being around neutral.
As the survey data illustrates, many consumers claim to not actively share content they read, if they receive a solicitation. Only 12% of respondents, after seeing a share solicitation, have gone on to actually share that content.
Despite the efforts of this survey, respondents may have their own biases and may not be representative of the web as a whole. Additionally, their responses are qualitative in nature, which doesn’t tend to provide the strongest of answers when considering if a practice such as soliciting shares is effective or not.
In order to capture a more quantitative answer to this question, of whether share solicitations are effective, we have also run some empirical research across much of Medium, evaluating posts to see if they solicited feedback and if they did, if that resulted in an actual increase in claps. We’ll be highlighting that research in next week’s #MartechMonday post.