10/09/2014 04:40 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

6 Content Sharing Lessons From the Big Guys

Lately, business news has been dramatically increasing its share of social media screen time. This is largely thanks to the content creativity and topic diversity now being published by some of the biggest names in business news; Business Insider, Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal (among others).

Small businesses can take quite a few plays from their Fortune 500 playbook to help achieve greater success in distributing their own content across the social networks (what? your small business doesn't have a content strategy?). Increasing the social shares on your business' content is a highly effective way of reaching your local base of potential customers, and growing your brand recognition through social proof.

1) Pick Your Battleground

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While you should definitely make an attempt to surface your content across all possible platforms, you should understand that significant success is only likely with one of them. All the major publishers were able to reach large audiences and capture thousands of shares, on just one of the social networks. Pick one social network that makes the most sense for your business, or perform a few tests to see which network seems to work the best for you. You should expect this to change over time, so don't get too attached to one network over the others.
LinkedIn should absolutely be one of the social networks you consider and test on.

2) Top "Shareable" Factors: Targeting Your Audience

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When it comes to business content, there are some clear indicators that dramatically increase the likelihood of your story being shared amongst the members of the social network.
Put a targeted spin on your content, based on who your key demographic is. Think of this strategy as covering changes that affect your readers. Content topics that do this well include covering new laws or local regulations, new survey findings about your area or key industry, or content for specific social factors, like age or parenthood.
To illustrate, the below are the possible, targeted, iterations of the theme "Successful People":

10 Successful People Under the Age of 25 (Targeting a younger base)

10 People who Became Highly Successful After Age 55 (Targeting an older base)

10 People Who Achieved Success Without Giving Up Family Time (Targeting a parent base)

3) Top "Shareable" Factors: Surprise!

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Your social followers will share articles that surprise them every time. It's one of the most popular social network behaviors, across all the different social networks. Coming up with a "surprise" themed content piece is easier than you think! Some recent socially viral stories include anecdotes about a 12 year-old's bow tie company and an 8 year-old who makes $1.3 million a year from his toy review YouTube channel. If you see something you find surprising and interesting, it's likely your followers will too (and they'll want to share it!).

4) Top "Shareable" Factors: Tantalize

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Tantalize your readers with a headline leaving them dying to know the answer, also a tactic widely known as "click-bait". This trend hasn't passed its prime yet, and no one can argue that it doesn't work. This technique is most often successful on Facebook and surprisingly, LinkedIn. The most successful way to pull off this tactic is to make an assertion, with one caveat. Recently popular examples include "People Without Kids Have Better Lives- Except for One Major Thing" or "It's Never Ok to Argue with A Customer- Unless They Do This..".

5) Top "Shareable" Factors: Local Pride

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Social network members usually have very strongly felt local pride and are likely to share a local pride story with other members of their social community. Content that does well within this category include themes like "Boston is the Best Place to eat out- Period" or "Accountants are Happiest in Austin, TX". This technique is a well established cornerstone of Buzzfeed's social strategy.
For what it's worth, your site should also proudly proclaim your local pride.

6) The Secret Social Network Breakdown

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Let's cut straight to the chase, different content types fare better on some social networks more so than others. When looking at the biggest and most successful business publishers' content strategy, here are some key takeaways about the content that fares the best on different social networks. Be wary- in some cases, the obvious popularity will result in an abundance of that content type, and your content could more easily be lost in the shuffle. Never be afraid to experiment, or try something unconventional!

Facebook: Surprise content, applicable content

Twitter: Pictures, statements one can agree with

LinkedIn: Self-improvement, new theories on productivity

Google+: Surprise, statements on can agree with

What do you think, small businesses owners? What strategies have worked best for you, and which social platforms have been the easies to crack?