Every marketer dreams of the day when their content goes viral. Everyone wants to be the person that develops that type of content for their campaign or company. The reality is, it probably won’t happen all that often, if ever. Marketers want their content to be liked, shared, talked about, and gain a new round of followers, but the reality is sometimes a little different.

In their haste to put something out there that people will talk about, the content is rushed and ends up being a steaming plate of garbage. Creating shareable content requires a number of steps that many marketers seem to bypass in favor of quick, clickbait-y stuff.

BIG mistake!

If there’s one thing most of us have in common is that we hate being click baited into a story that promises the moon and delivers nothing; that attention-grabbing headline that sends us down the rabbit hole of deceitful content. More often than not, people fall into this trap and social media outlets like Facebook are once again cracking down on that.

With the lines between news media and branded content getting blurrier, many customers said they trust content created by brands as much as they do content from media outlets like The New York Times.  An Insights on Marketing infographic, finds that more than half (58%) of consumers trust editorial content, but that number jumps to 74% if the content is educational.

Opportunity is knocking, content marketers! Answer that door.

Here are a few steps on how marketers can create shareable content.

Choose the right topic

This may sound like a no-brainer, but the reality is there are plenty of content writers who don’t bother doing the research to see what their target audience is talking about first. Content writers can determine the ‘right’ topic by finding existing content -- on their own website or their competitors’, to see what’s worked in the past and either improve it or avoid past mistakes. They should also experiment with multiple formats based on what the audience has enjoyed in the past.

Another way to create shareable content is by considering the questions the audience is asking. Figuring out what their pain points (and questions) are and answering those questions will make the audience take notice. The audience is looking for expert advice, give it to them!   

The lesson here is, do your research. Search outlets like LinkedIn or other popular forums to see what’s got people talking. Your audience might be the best source for your content.

Create the perfect headline

Easier said than done, right? I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but that’s the first thing that will attract people to your content. However, be careful that you don’t end up being offensive when you’re trying to be catchy. Some people subscribe to the school of creating offensive, negative headlines, but I subscribe to the school of push the envelope but don’t be offensive. Offensive headlines will only attract crickets and tumbleweeds and will not get you the loyal following you want.

Another tip to keep in mind, a good headline should explain the problem you’re trying to solve. Remember that stat about content being more shareable if it’s educational? Give them what they’re looking for. Whether it’s how to grow their sales in Q4, or how to better automate their marketing or the top 3 things every leader should know – whatever it is, help the audience solve their problem.

Something you should never forget is that your headline is your promise to your readers. Your content and headline need to be connected to one another. If you don’t make the connection, it will fail to reach your audience – no matter how catchy your headline is.

Give your content legs

Now that you have great content and the best headline ever written, what’s next? Thinking where to distribute the content so it reaches the right audience.

Let’s start with social media.

While it seems that everyone is constantly on social media, that is not necessarily the case. Using tools like Google Analytics, you should try to find out what is the most popular time of the day where more people are online. Is it during their lunch break? First thing in the morning? Or late in the afternoon? Doing your homework can determine how many additional eyeballs you’ll garner or how many new followers will it get you.

Remember the end goal: shareable content.

Another way to generate additional followers is letting someone know they’ve been mentioned. Send them a tweet with a link to the article and tag them. They’ll appreciate the gesture and will retweet it to their loyal audience.

Not all content is written

While we sit here talking about headlines and actual content, don’t forget that not all content is meant to be blogged about or even written. Good content can be visual, especially with the number of millennials (and Gen Z’ers) engaging directly with brands though video or social media.  

One way to illustrate this is to tell you about something that caught my eye on social media recently. If you know anything about me is that I love spending time on my ranch in Sioux Falls. I like to clear the brush and do other kinds of DIY projects, so this particular set of videos caught my eye.

Like any other social media user, I came across a Lowe’s video called “Made in a Minute” on Facebook. It’s a first installation, 360-degrees video series that teaches followers how to make a teepee in eight steps by simply tilting or dragging their mobile phone. Again, being from South Dakota, the teepee caught my eye and thought this was a great idea. That post generated 4,000 shares and 5.7 million views. Not too shabby.

With social media changing pretty much everything, it would be smart for everyone to remember that blog posts, while still effective, aren’t the only way to reach an audience.  As long as the content is inspiring, instructing, informative, and entertaining, you’ll cultivate a following and, in turn, will share that content with their friends and family. They’ll evangelize your content for you, but you must evangelize them first.

Jeffrey Hayzlett is the primetime television host of C-Suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett and Executive Perspectives on C-Suite TV and is the host of the award-winning All Business with Jeffrey Hayzlett on the CBS on-demand podcast network, Play.It. Hayzlett is a global business celebrity, Hall of Fame speaker, best-selling author, and Chairman of C-Suite Network, home of the world’s most trusted network of C-Suite leaders.