27 Forms of Content to Share
It’s not easy to create good content, and it’s even harder to create content that gets shared, but it is certainly possible if you focus on the right things and put some elbow grease into it.
Creating content that is more likely to get shared, is obviously a better use of your precious time and resources. But what content should you create and what methods can be used to increase your chances of content marketing success?
In this article I will list 27 types of content that you could create, and a few tricks to boost sharing of that content:
Articles are of course the fundamental form of content on the internet. There are many millions of articles out there already, with countless more being churned out every day. The reason why they are so popular is simple – all that text gets easily indexed by Google, and anyone can write one without any special skills or tools.
In the good old days, a 300 word article stuffed with keywords, could reach the top of the search engines. These days, that’s less likely to happen and unless you are Seth Godin, you’re going to need to write a little bit more than that if you want people to share it.
Even the term “articles” these days can mean many things, there are articles and then there are articles – I know that doesn’t really say much, but all will be revealed!
There are many forms of article which you can and should be producing, and of course there is much crossover between the different types, but you can read more about them below:
As mentioned above, the days of 300 word articles are long gone (although they do still have their place) and these days it’s all about long-form content.
In other words (and lots of ’em) it means long articles, with lots of useful, informative or entertaining text. Typically this means at least 3000 words for an article – ten times what used to be the norm! In fact this article is in long-form territory and now heading dangerously close to 4000 words.
Being ten times the size doesn’t necessarily mean ten times the work though since it’s usually not ten separate topics to research. On the other hand, it might be, so abandon hope all ye who enter here unless you really like writing.. 😉
The unfortunately named “listicle” (does anyone not think “testicle” when hearing that name?) is just an article consisting of a list. Such as “7 ways to win the lotto”, “21 types of pancake” or “Top 5 Tips for Entrepreneurs“. It’s one of the easiest forms of article that can be created and also one of the most shareable.
Just like regular listicles, these are articles consisting of a list. However the long-form listicle goes much further and each list item itself is practically an entire article. The trick with these is to present in-depth or actionable data in each list item, instead of just a brief description as would normally be the case in a list article. As with any long-form article, this variation for lists is sure to be liked by the mighty Google, and is also much more likely to get shared. It does however, take some time to create.
Yes it’s a thing, a Charticle is basically a graphic heavy article. In other words the majority of the content is graphics (ie. charts) along with some supporting text to further enhance or clarify what is portrayed in the charts (and provide food for the search bots). As with infographics, mentioned below, these are very popular and cry out to be shared.
As the name implies, “How-to” content is just articles that provide instructions to perform some specific task or achieve some defined result. This is bordering on documentation, but without being actually called “documentation” since nobody would want to read it or share it if you called it that!
You have to make “how-to” articles more readable, less dry, and not as boring as documentation, and of course include lots of images to spice up the page a little. Examples are things like “How to schedule social posts”, “How to boil an egg”, or even “How to start a business blog“.
Content curation is all the rage these days as digital marketers are faced with the overwhelming task of churning out ever more content to feed the content marketing beast.
Finding quality content published by other people and then sharing that with your followers, or combing multiple curated articles into one new article, is what content curation is all about. It allows you to keep the pipeline full of fresh content to keep your followers happy and to keep attracting new leads to your marketing funnels.
Always a good one to create – a resource list is one of those things which can grow over time as you keep adding more and more resources. Over time, as it becomes ever more comprehensive and useful, it gathers more shares and more backlinks and more authority which pushes it further up the ranks on Google. The end result is more traffic.
Factual data-based articles, also known as data driven content, packed with information such as statistics on a certain industry or niche, or a specific business or process, are always popular. Finding the data to use is the tricky part though. You can just Google for it and hope that the reports you find online have not already been used as the basis for a thousand other articles. But the best way, if possible, is to use your own data.
If your own systems are somehow gathering large enough amounts of data then that is potentially a goldmine and can be turned in to some great articles. If you don’t have any data of your own yet then you better start collecting some now – log everything about everything that happens in your business!
Image Based Articles
A no-brainer really – write an article based around images, make sure to sprinkle a selection of catchy images throughout the text. You end up with something which is easier on the eye, which looks bigger and better (even if it’s not that great), and which tends to attract more attention than a boring wall of text. It still needs enough text to satisfy Google but the focus should be on the images that the text describes.
Video Based Articles
Similar idea to the above mentioned image based articles, are video based articles. It is easier to make these shareable when you can see just how popular a video is on YouTube or other video sites. So the secret sauce here is to go to YouTube, search for your keywords and find the most popular videos. Then watch the videos and write down the key points covered within and turn that into a full article, and then just embed the video(s) that were used to inspire the article. Simples.
In any field there are people who are seen as experts or thought leaders, and people listen to (or read) what they have to say. These people are influencers and getting their words into your article instantly gives it perceived value and a potential reach far beyond what it might otherwise have.
There are basically two ways you can go about creating expert roundups – one is simply to curate existing content from a selection of experts and combine it into a whole new article. The other method takes a bit more effort but the pay-off is much higher – you actually go out and ask the chosen experts for their opinion on the topic at hand and their replies form the content of your article. This second method results in something far more unique and much more likely to get shared.
A variation of the expert roundup – pick someone interesting, an influencer, and interview them in-depth. If you can score an interview with someone that everyone wants to read more about, you’re sorted. Make sure you don’t ask dumb questions though, try to be original so you can craft something interesting. You may need to work on your networking skills to score those interviews though!
By its very nature, news is time sensitive and expires quickly, however if you can get in fast and spill the beans before too many others, you might just be able to ride the wave. It helps if you have already setup some automated monitoring to ensure you’re among the first to know when something interesting happens in your target market. Of course “expires quickly” is pretty much the way everything is on social networks like Twitter.. blink and it’s gone.
Images are inherently shareable, but of course some get shared more than others, with cat pics being the leader in the field (probably).
Whether it be funny cat pics or the latest Kanye twitter storm, memes are what the internet was made for. If you can start one (without destroying your business reputation in the process) then go for it. Otherwise, just jump aboard an existing meme and try to capture some of that glory. You can learn how to make your meme pics here.
Ever popular among the B2B crowd in particular, the infographic is both visually appealing and informative. It distils boring data into cool charts or graphical representations which can range from the humble pie chart, to an array of Santas or some other creative form of chart. If you have some interesting data and a graphic designer on staff, then you’re good to go!
If you or you staff are graphically challenged, then don’t despair as there are many places you can find a designer for a quick infographic job, and there are even apps out there which provide templates and easy drag & drop interfaces to create your own infographics online.
I’m partial to these as they are great for sharing on Twitter and the like. Nice little infographics where all the data is visible in the tweet without having to click anything – minfographics! (is that a thing?) or maybe tinfographics for tiny infographics? Anyway, you get the picture, right?
Obviously you can’t put too much data in a minfographic/tinfographic but they can easily be used to provide a preview of what your full infographic shows, or you can have a series of them which combined contain all the relevant data.
The internet is chock full of great quotes, although the vast majority seem to be attributed to Winston Churchill. Quotes lend themselves nicely to posting as a tweet of course but they’re even better if pasted into a nice graphic template and then that image is posted online instead (or as well).
Simply putting the exact same text in an image, lends it a magical “share me” quality. If Churchill quotes are not relevant to your industry, then find some words of wisdom from influencers or even just use your own words.
Who doesn’t like a quiz? They’re fun, engaging and interactive – everything you want for your content marketing campaigns. They’re not just for doing in the pub of course and you can easily create them online using a service such as Qzzr or Quibblo or if money is no object, you could try Interact.
A survey may at first seem like a quiz, but is in fact quite different. A survey asks a range of questions to collect more in-depth data which is then analysed for various purposes. A quiz asks questions for which the answers are known and is just to test your knowledge. You can use a service such as QuestionPro to create surveys.
A poll is similar to a survey but generally asks a simple question and provides a few simple choices for the answer (such as Yes/No/Don’t Know). You can use PollDaddy to create polls.
The aforementioned quiz is one example of gamification, another might be content which requires the user to click something somewhere at some time, to proceed to the next screen, or kill an alien, or show a dancing cat. Certain actions may result in points being awarded (or deducted) and a progress bar may be displayed to encourage the user to keep going to the end.
Contests as content? Ye why not? Everybody loves contests and giveaways, basically because free stuff. You could use a service such as Gleam or the aptly named Rafflecopter, or install the KingSumo plugin for WordPress. Contests are by their nature, engaging and fun and that also makes them highly shareable.
Contests are pretty easy to create, and even more so when using one of the apps mentioned here, so you’ve got no excuse (other than possible laws related to contests in your area) to not give it a try.
The video equivalent of the how-to article mentioned previously. Make it useful, make it actionable, make it not send people to sleep. It can be something as simple as screen capturing a product or feature walk-through which can easily be done with tools such as Camtasia on Windows or Mac, Kazam on Linux, or Screencast on the web.
This kind of video doesn’t have to be about cats, but it helps.. Of course if you can create video which is both entertaining, informative and relevant to your business then you win the internet, or at least some of it, for a while…
Slides & Presentations
Slide shows are of course very visual and are often spiced up with the obligatory cat pic or meme, all of which helps make them exceedingly shareable. They are also simple to make and are often created with re-purposed content, so you get lots more content for not much more effort. You can use Google Slides to create your slide show and then easily import it to an online service such as SlideShare.
A visually appealing online presentation goes a long way. These days there’s not much excuse for even the most graphically challenged marketer to make an ugly presentation. There are tools such as emaze and prezi that make it quite simple to create something that looks great and gets attention of the right kind.
An unusual variation on the presentation theme is the oddly named roojoom, a “guided content experience platform” which basically allows you to combine content from multiple sources into one shareable document or link, creating a content journey of sorts.
White Papers are in a way, just another type of long-form article. Typically published in PDF format these days and containing in-depth reporting on the topic at hand. A white paper should contain cold hard facts, actionable data, detailed instructions, or thorough analysis, not wishy washy opinions and useless filler. In general, there should be no funny cat pics.
White papers are not fun, they are informative and educational. Publishing white papers helps make you look like you know what you’re talking about, they give you an air of authority, but of course it helps if you actually do know what you are talking about otherwise the Emperor’s new suit will be revealed for what it is (or isn’t).
White papers are frequently used as lead magnets and can serve as a gateway leading to your other content. A good white paper, from a credible company or organization, is usually considered well worth the cost of submitting an email address to download.
Yet another variation on long-form content is the eBook. You can bundle up a few existing articles, throw in a new intro, save as a PDF doc and call it an eBook. Or you can create a whole new document from scratch.
You could say a white paper is just an ebook which is true, it is one type of ebook, but there’s a lot more flexibility in the composition of an ebook. An eBook can of course be factual or it can be entirely fictional, depending on the purpose and the target market. As with White Papers, a good eBook of any kind can be great as a lead magnet, an example of which you can see on Bullet.
The web makes it easy for anyone to teach pretty much anything these days. You don’t need to be a qualified teacher (but it helps), and you don’t need to be and expert (but that also helps), and you don’t need to be already known as an authority in the subject (naturally that helps as well). What you do need is the ability to research a topic and present it in a structured way, and a platform from which to teach.
Courses online can be presented in a variety of formats, from a series of downloadable PDF docs or educational videos on YouTube, to an interactive learning environment complete with tools for teachers to manage students and for students to easily learn from and engage with teachers and other students, or something in between such as Udemy.
Curiosity gap headlines
Some might argue that a headline alone is not a form of content, but in this era of micro-blogging à la Twitter, I think it’s clear that a headline can and does stand on its own as content. Of course it doesn’t have to be alone, but when you’re
spamming posting on Twitter, that is the only part people will see unless it is compelling enough to make people click the associated link. Which is where the curiosity gap headline comes in to its own.
A curiosity gap is created by providing just enough info to whet the appetite but not enough to satiate. The reader is intrigued by that carefully chosen collection of words in the headline, it tells them enough to hook them, then they cannot resist being reeled in – they simply have to know the outcome of the story you teased them with!
Upworthy is the acknowledged king of the curiosity gap headline, but many others have used and continue to use this copy-writing tactic, because it works so well at getting people to engage or click through to the full content.
It’s all very well to go about creating content with the aim of getting it shared, but why exactly do people share content? Why would they share your content? Fortunately for content marketers, there are a number of reasons such as:
- To be seen as an expert by sharing informative or educational content
- To be part of a like-minded community
- To support the person or company that published the content
- To help people or organizations they like or care about
- To populate their own social channels between posting their own content
- To attract new followers/likes by sharing
- To attract the attention of influencers
- Because what goes around, comes around
- Because you specifically asked them (nicely) to share
- Because the content is just too good not to share!
Boosting sharing success..
So you’ve created some great content, and you’re sure people will want to share it as soon as they find it, but there lies the flaw in the process – if nobody sees it in the first place, it won’t ever get shared, or at least not to an extent that would make any significant impression on your lead acquisition or brand awareness campaigns.
What to do? In a word, cheat! 😉
The days of “build it and they will come” are long gone on the internet, so you have to employ a range of tactics to make sure people find your content, and it has to be enough people to make it worth the effort of creating all that content in the first place.
So here are some ways you can boost your chances of success:
- Outreach – contact people directly to ask them to share, or at least make them aware of it in the hope that they will share
- Make content so remarkable that people will be compelled to share
- For a listicle, use odd numbers in the title (like I did for this article): “7 ways to..” not 8. Why? I don’t know, but allegedly it works better! YMMV.
- Make your articles “skimmable” – nobody has time these days so make sure that people can see at a glance that your content is worth sharing
- Make your content related to a trending topic so you can piggyback on that wave
- Make your content “evergreen” so that it can be reposted all year round, year after year, and still be relevant
- Use automation tools to share and repost your content in various ways at multiple times to ensure it gets noticed
- Publish and share your content at the optimal time of the day and day of the week, when traffic and attention is highest
- Listen to Bill Gates who allegedly said “If you can’t make it good, at least make it look good.”
- Use social metrics to find hot topics and build “skyscraper content“
- Paid amplification (or paid discovery) – this is what the pros do. Don’t leave things to chance, simply pay to get your content link shown enough times to get it noticed so that it can then take on a life of its own. You can advertise on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, or StumbleUpon. You can also buy some content distribution from Outbrain and Taboola, or you can perhaps get a sponsored comment on Disqus. There are many such places you can pay to give your content a boost, just be careful not to spend too much!
So there you have it – 27+ forms of content to keep you or your content marketing people gainfully employed! 😉
What are your favourite forms of content? Which methods do you use to get it shared? Feel free to share your successes and failures, in the comments below.