Sharing Social Media: How to Get Them to Press Play or Hit Send

A good YouTube video drives someone to not only watch it, but also say, "Wow, this is awesome, I want to share this with {INSERT mom, best friend, colleague}!" Whether it's a Facebook post for a great deal on surfing lessons, a Tweet about hilarious Web site or a funny forwarded email featuring animals--the call to action is generally to pass the message along. I'd like to call this maneuver "capturing a share of the "share."

My company, ValoreBooks.com, is currently on such a quest to get people to press play on a Web video series we're running as well as pass along to their friends, family, and co-workers. In doing so, we needed to examine why people relay this kind of information in the first place. Here are a few questions we felt helped us in all our social media endeavors, and ones that we think other companies should pose before doing the same.

Is it relevant? Relevance is all about being part of your audiences' life in a meaningful way. A great quote that sums up the importance of succeeding in the moment is "good content capitalizes on an opportunity in the life of the consumer." People are more likely to share something that's applicable to their lifestyle and is timely. Companies should take the time to become more familiar with their audience and understand what's popular and any other new trends. This will help create significant content and keep businesses in the loop with current events.

Is it entertaining? What emotion does the content evoke--Laughter, tears or warm and fuzzy? If the answer is no emotion, then it's time to scrap the material and start over. Task the most creative and talented staff, family and friends to help create content that is engaging, entertaining or educational. It's that much more important in an increasingly crowded online marketplace to stand out with content that's not only amusing, but that also provides viewers with the urge to share it with someone else.

Is it practical? These Fast Company blogs are a great example of what's practical. The topics apply to every aspect of work and are presented in a unique and compelling manner. That's what keeps Fast Company at more than 160,000 followers strong on Twitter. The same could be done by all sorts of organizations for a wide range of audiences, such as a doctor's office blogging about some medical advice, a restaurant showcasing some of their recipes or a local bank offering sound financial tips. Regardless, the content must appeal to everyday needs of a particular public and be something that they might not generally know.

Is it inspiring? There is something to be said for broadening the mind. No one sends a link to a story just because it's a short article, has pretty pictures or is positive. Somewhere within is a message or an idea that might change the way one understands the world or really appeals to the emotions. It's almost like joining a movement, if two people read this article or watch this video, they are brought closer together. The content is not meant to be absorbed alone.

Though in its early stages, it appears that our webisodes parodying the Jersey Shore are already paying off by raising awareness for our company and new textbook rental service. This is due in part to the fact that the comedy series is particularly relevant and entertaining for the college audience who will then become our best marketers for drawing more eyeballs. I would strongly submit that the same formula can be successfully applied by a host of other companies for a wide range of markets.

Bobby Brannigan is the founder and CEO of ValoreBooks, a fast-growing online provider of cheap college textbooks. He can be reached at bbrannigan@valorebooks.com.

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