In Author Website: Part 1, we discussed the essential elements of a website. In Author Website: Part 2, we took a dive into maximizing SEO for your site. This installment will help you make the website work for you — how to encourage social engagement and get readers to share your content.

Encourage social engagement

There are many ways to get people to share your content. The first (and best) way is to write valuable information. By valuable, I mean to write what your readers want and need. Some readers want to be entertained. Others want to know they aren’t alone in their thoughts or struggles. Some sites gather people together with a shared interest, like boating or mystery writing. Many want to become more informed about a topic or know how to do something. They may be looking for advice on a restaurant, a book, about technology, or how to get the most out of their website.

Your first job is to figure out what information, inspiration, or solution you can offer to your ideal reader. The next is to deliver the information in a way that provides the solution and is so good that your reader wants to share it with their friends and followers. A study by The New York Times looks at why people share information.

To bring valuable and entertaining content to others

According to the study, 94% of respondents say they carefully consider how content they share will be useful to the recipient. People want to create value and be helpful. Sharing is a way that allows your readers to give information and entertainment to friends and followers without having to create content themselves. Writing great content is our job as writers.

To define ourselves to others

You have friends who constantly post pictures of cats or share funny memes or share the latest technology trends. We know a lot about them because of what they share. When we create content on our websites, it defines who we are, our brand. Scroll through your Facebook or Twitter feed and see if you can pick out how people choose to define themselves and how your ideal reader defines themselves. What do they need from you to bring out the best in them or what they want most?

To grow and nourish our relationships

Those that share valuable content often are more likely to grow their connections than people who post occasionally or not at all. It’s true for those who sit quietly in their homes versus those who get out and interact with a variety of people. Sharing content allows people to connect with each other. We help cultivate relationships by giving our readers something interesting to share.

Self-fulfillment

As humans, we search for meaning, even in sometimes meaningless things. By sharing humorous things, we bring joy to people’s lives. By sharing book reviews, writing tips, or insight on book marketing, we give meaning to our existence by sharing our love of the business or craft of writing. We define our meaning based on what we share but help our readers define their meaning based on what we give them to share.

To get the word out about causes or brands

As we create value and develop our brand as writers and authorpreneurs, our readers want to share their experiences with others. They may want to pass on their appreciation for the information by sharing it or raise awareness of the topic you write about. If they have a positive experience or get something positive out of their interaction with your content that affirms their worldview, it compels them to share it.

The key to creating shareable content is getting into the head of your ideal reader. It’s not just about creating your brand (although that’s important). It’s about understanding your reader’s motivation for sharing. One clue to finding what your readers want is to examine your analytics and statistics. Which posts or content are people sharing the most? Is it longer or short posts? Funny or serious ones? With pictures or videos? If you are just starting out, look to your competitors for clues. Many blogs show shares stats on their blog posts.

Make it easy to share

Social share buttons are easy to install and give readers a one or two-click way to share content they love. I use the JetPack WordPress plugin for the social share buttons below (and lots of other great features), but there are many others. Check out Small Biz Trends for an article on other social media plugins.

Prominently display your social media handles on your sidebar or footer to make it easy for readers to mention you in a post easily.

Use plugins like Click to Tweet or Better Click to Tweet. People like easy. You create a ready-made Tweet with a link back to your article or website. It helps the reader share your best content.

Post engagement

Another part of the social sharing equation is post engagement. Reader comments create social proof that your content is valuable and interesting. Get feedback from readers by asking questions, posting edgy commentary, or simply asking for comments about their experiences or thoughts on the subject. Use incentives to post a comment by using a plugin like CommentLuv (which links to their latest post) or by giving something away to all those that comment, like a worksheet, timeline, or guide. As with all other social media, commenting, sharing, and otherwise engaging with others is the way to build relationships and foster engagement with your posts.

Create content that readers find valuable AND want to share. Think of why your readers share information and give them easy ways to share and interact with you and your post. Engage with other people and blogs to create mutually beneficial relationships and build a following over time.

And, of course, if you find this information valuable to your readers, please share it. While you are here, leave a comment and create a connection. I look forward to hearing from you!

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