Please RT: About Online Sharing

Social networks make it easy to add other people’s content to your own message stream. A number of businesses are only too happy to do exactly that. How to avoid the murky waters of content theft?

A bit of psychology: why do we share other people’s content at all?

There are social as well as practical reasons to share other people’s content. Let’s take a look at this short and probably incomplete list of reasons:

  • Give and take – you can’t expect people to share your content in the long run if you stop sharing their content altogether. You need goodwill.
  • You really, really like a bit of content and want to let others know about it.
  • You don’t create the kind of content you need to attract the audience you need – but others do. If you want to be noticed on a social network it pays to be talkative.

Adding your own content

Spot your original content amidst all the retweets
Creating and sharing: mixed content

If you want to share your own views, there are several ways to come up with enough content to share it on a regular basis.

  1. Being extremely productive. Blogging full time. Experience helps. (Example: Darren Rowse – @Problogger).
  2. Having (relatively) low standards for the content you produce. If this is your approach you don’t read up much on subjects, and you don’t check your posts for typos. (no example)
  3. Producing good (or great) quality content over a longer period of time and then sharing it daily on social networks. (Example: Jeff Bullas)

If you’re still busy gaining the necessary experience and building up a treasure chest filled with heaps of great content, you will find yourself without relevant, ready-to-share content pretty often. Sharing the same 5 blog posts 40 times a day will not make you popular. And it’s a bit early to start inviting guest bloggers if you blog for the sake of sharing your own ideas.

Sharing other people’s ideas will help you AND them – if you do it right.

Basic tips for sharing other people’s content – especially if you own a business

Probably fine:

  • reblog someone else’s post on a platform you don’t own.
  • share interesting news on social media
  • post a paragraph on your own website and adding your own view (content curation)

Tip: always add a link and the author’s name (Twitter handle) and for preference mention the website where you found the information. Why? It’s not just good manners. Check the paragraph below about measuring your reach.

Posting complete blog posts on your company website is pushing it too far. Even if you add a statement on the lines of “this text was originally posted on website X” that does not tell your readers whether you have the author’s permission to fill your company website with their work.

Tip: the main question is whether or not you paid the author for contributing quality content to your website. Add a paragraph “About our authors” to avoid misunderstandings.

Once you have created a significant amount of content, the balance between home-made and other content will start to shift.

Tip: You need to monitor your content sharing mix and decide what suits you at each stage: 20/80, 60/40, 80/20?

Measured reach versus actual reach

Measuring the number of social shares your content gets gives you some idea of the reach of your message. Tools like Tweetreach list the number of mentions, the number of tweets and retweets, and the number of followers of all the sharing accounts. So you know how many people may have read your message.

A few caveats:

  • If sharers use scheduling tools, all you can do is hope they’ll mention you or use your title or hashtag so you can track their messages. This practice means that the reach you measure is lower than the actual reach. To close the gap, make sure that:
    • the sharing buttons on your site work properly – so visitors use those in stead of their own bookmarklets;
    • title, name, and hashtag combined fit quite comfortably inside a tweet when you click a sharing button.
  • Automatic reblogs and retweets are forms of automation which remove the engagement aspect altogether. This practice means that the reach you measure is (a bit) higher than the actual reach.
  • In an open platform like Twitter, the right subject (the right hashtag) may mean the number of views – and clicks – is higher than the number of any single sharer’s followers.

With so many tools around you can only hope they cancel each other out. In fact, a lot of tools exist that help you reduce the amount of guesswork by adding analytics to the links inside your messages – think Hootsuite, Buffer and the like.

How accurately do you need to measure reach?

Do you need to know who actually reads your content before sharing? In that case you need clicks combined with retweets by the same sharer. Just in case there is an automated tool running which retweets anything containing #subject.

In most cases it’s fine to have a rough estimate of your reach. Compare it to your website’s analytics – the number of clicks your content is actually getting – and you’ll have some idea of where you stand.

After all, reaching any audience is one thing – only part of that audience will engage with your content on your website. That is where the fun starts.

Please add your thoughts to my musings by commenting below; or find me on Twitter!

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