Shareworthy, Not Shareable: How to Make an Impact in the Era of Constant Content

Being shareable simply answers the question, “Can they share it?” Of course they can, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that something is worth sharing. The real question that begs to asked is: Is it shareworthy?

You’ve probably seen Red Bull’s recent video showing people swinging between hot-air balloons in the “Mega Swing.” As a content creator myself, I think it’s great.

It’s almost uninformative at this point to say that Red Bull is doing sharable content right. The company has been mastering it since before it famously helped Felix Baumgartner skydive from the edge of space.

But this, in particular, is a really nice example of how a brand can elevate content to otherwise unreachable heights by letting the idea drive and staying out of its own way. Red Bull does this all the time.

But what makes this type of content so sharable?

In the world of content creation, the term “shareable” says that something was made with the intention to be shared and therefore is attempting to align with the best practices for the internet. This includes branded and unbranded content.

But the problem is, the term is extremely generic. It’s more of a mantra than a qualitative judgment. Just as with “viral” five to 10 years ago, calling something “shareable” doesn’t necessarily make it so.

Shareable vs. viral

The term viral essentially fell out of fashion because it ultimately described a result that was hard to attain. As such, lots of non-viral stuff was called viral, and it made the whole discipline look unpredictable, unprofessional and even snake-oily.

It also began to describe a specific look and feel: ultra-low budget, handheld cameras, faux-user-generated content and some guy saying, “Did you get that? Did you get that?” to the camera.

It became an over-promise, something inaccurate and limiting enough that everybody basically stopped using it. Yet, I think it’s still a good word when used correctly because it says something about the way we share.

To be clear, while all viral content is shareable, not all shareable content is viral. For all intents and purposes, they are mostly the same, but shareable is a more general term that describes an approach. It means that the creators are trying to align with the medium of the internet in order to create audience-friendly content. Shareable content looks and feels different, serves a different function and inhabits a different cultural space than “traditional.”

But being shareable simply answers the question, “Can they share it?” Of course they can, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that something is worth sharing. That’s a much more difficult qualitative judgment to make, but it’s the important one to attempt.

The real question that begs to asked is: Is it shareworthy? The common misconception is that calling something shareable content and answering, “Can they share it?,” is enough. What matters is the next question: “Will they share it, and why?”

Keys to shareworthy content

Brands and agencies often wrongly believe that simply including a YouTube Creator will make an otherwise unshareable idea suddenly shareable. It won’t. A creator is not the equivalent of, or a substitute for, a shareworthy idea, so let’s clear things up a bit by focusing on some key tips on how to actually create something shareable. Hint: It’s all about the idea.

  1. Ideas > stories: Story only matters insofar as it delivers the idea clearly.
  2. The idea is the headline: You have to win viewers before they even click play, not 30 seconds afterward. Viewers should know exactly what they’re about to see in order to justify clicking. If a blogger can’t explain the idea in their headline, you don’t have a clean enough idea.
  3. The video is the idea: Viewers should see exactly what they came for–nothing else beyond what it takes to deliver the desired experience (which you created with the headline)–at maximum entertainment value.
  4. Anticipate reactions: The internet has made the process of viewing an active thing, and reactions lead to shares. Will this make people feel good? Will they laugh? Will they catch references to pop culture?
  5. Don’t be coy: Show viewers why they should continue watching, and keep showing them. Don’t save it for the end and don’t expect anybody to watch until the end just because they started.
  6. Be visual: Rely on what people see to satisfy their desired experience. Expect everybody to watch without sound and work from there.
  7. Be human: The best-case scenario, as with any creative pursuit, is that you find a human truth and put it on display, either in the concept, the execution or the way viewers react to it. Consider how somebody can use this content to say something about themselves, their life, their friends, their enemies, etc. That creates a sense of authenticity that is vital to the medium.

Regardless if these tips resonate or not, whether you’re a billion-dollar multichannel network, an agency creative pitching Rube Goldberg machines or a YouTube video maker-turned-influencer who can now dictate large sponsorship deals to a mega-conglomerate, the core of effective content creation always remains the same: a good idea, a sense of authenticity and egalitarianism along with simplicity and directness in execution.

At the end of the day, what’s shareable is shareable.

Joseph Matsushima is a co-founder of content agency Denizen.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.