Here’s What do Facebook Users Share, Enjoy and Want?
Getting Facebook to work for you has a lot to do with psychology. Specifically, it has to do with understanding the psychology of the average Facebook user and how it differs from that of web traffic elsewhere.
What do Facebook users respond well to?
What falls flat on Facebook? What is it that makes someone share something or like something on Facebook?
Understanding this is highly important, not only because it will allow you to share the very most effective type of content that will grow and spread across the network like wildfire but also because it will help you to decide what kind of campaigns and products are the best fit for Facebook full stop.
What Should You Be Using Facebook For?
We’ve seen how and why Facebook is such a powerful tool and why you should be using it. With those kinds of numbers there’s no doubt that you should be investing a great deal of time and resources into marketing on the platform.
At the same time though, it’s also important to understand the limitations and the failings of Facebook. In particular for instance, it’s important to recognize that Facebook referrals are typically quite ‘low quality’. On average, a visitor who comes from Facebook will look at only one page of your site, as opposed to someone on Google who will look at 2-2.5 or direct visitors who explore 3-5 pages usually.
Why is this? On mobile this is at least partly down to the fact that Facebook users are going to be looking at your page through the Facebook browser. In turn, this tends to encourage them to head back to Facebook rather than browsing the web.
More generally though, it’s also because your posts and adverts are actually interrupting people on Facebook. When someone visits your page through Google or by typing your URL into the navigation bar directly, it means that they’re interested in reading what you have to say at that given time and thus they are actively seeking out your content.
On the other hand though, when someone sees content that they found through Facebook, they’ll be taking time out of their leisure activities. They came here to check up on their friends not to read your content.
This right away creates a subtle yet powerful psychological shift in what Facebook users respond to and how you should best be marketing to them.
For starters, it means that you should share shorter and less in-depth content on Facebook. Look at your own site stats – chances are that the pages that enjoyed the most success on Facebook were the ones that were easier to dive in-and-out of.
At the same time, this also means you should think about your goals on Facebook. If users only look at one page when they come from Facebook, this might not be the best place to make direct sales. Likewise, this might not be the best place to try and establish yourself as a thought leader with a long, insightful post on the nature of your industry.
What you should be using Facebook for is to increase your brand awareness, visibility and loyalty. This is an opportunity to increase your likes, your shares and your followers and to be seen by more people. This is a great opportunity to capture e-mails meanwhile and leads for your email marketing and it’s a great place to test ideas, to communicate with your audience and to get feedback.
Facebook as a marketing tool is about casting a large net and taking that first step towards forming a relationship. It’s also about forming a dialogue and communicating. But while there are exceptions to this rule, it’s not as well suited to making direct sales.
What Type of Content Gets Shared and Liked?
Another thing to think carefully about is the type of content that does well on Facebook. What can you post and share that will get people talking about your brand?
This might mean creating your own content, or it might mean finding content that is currently trending already through tools like BuzzSumo. Whichever route you go though, there is a lot of value in the skill of being able to identify the type of content that will thrive here and then picking that for your own site.
Again, understanding this is all to do with understanding the psychology of the Facebook user. And specifically, it’s about knowing why people are moved to share. Here’s one quick observation that might take you by surprise for instance: most people who like or share something on Facebook will do so before reading it. In fact, they may not ever read it.
Think about your own Facebook use. What was the last thing that you shared on Facebook? And what was the process that led you to do that? Did you see a link that looked interesting, follow it, read it and then share it/like it so your friends could see it? Or did you see it, think it looked interesting, click ‘like’ or ‘share’ while chuckling to yourself then decide to come back to it later?
In many cases, it will be the latter. So if they haven’t actually read a post, why would they click like or share?
There are two main reasons:
Let’s look at each of them here for a moment…
First and foremost, Facebook is a communication tool. In theory, everything that occurs on the site should be facilitating communication. As such, the options and tools built into it are all conducive to this.
For instance, Facebook gives you the ability to share a post with your friends but it also gives you the ability to share something directly to another friend. And this is again something you might have done yourself.
So if you were to see a fun looking article on ‘Challenges Only People Who Work From Home Will Understand’, you might decide to share it with your friend who works from home. Or if you see an article on ‘Why Alligators and Crocodiles Are NOT Dinosaurs’, you might decide to share that with your friend who insists that they are dinosaurs.
In each case, you are using your post to either start a new conversion, to carry one on, or to show the friend you’re thinking about them and you ‘get them’. Sometimes content will even be shared mid discussion on Facebook to back up a point. How do you get your content to be used in this manner? Simple: think about the specific person you are aiming your content at as you write it. Write it for someone you know in fact – and then share it with them. Chances are that if you know someone who can benefit from the article, other people will as well.
Another strategy is to think about discussions and arguments you’ve had in the past and to write more broadly on that subject.
Sometimes people will also post content to Facebook in a more public way. If you share something to your own wall, it’s often because you want to start a discussion about it and use Facebook as a public forum. Maybe you’ve seen an article on how politicians are increasing their own salaries and you feel outraged – you might respond by sharing that content so that you can start a discourse on the subject and poll the opinions of your friends and family.
Note that this might also mean you end up sharing content that you actually don’t like or even feel strongly against. The belief that you only share things because you like them then is certainly misguided
So how do you create content that will get this kind of response and get shared as a result? The trick is to think of things that are divisive and that people will think about one way or the other. In other words, it’s better for your articles to create a strong negative reaction than it is for them to create no reaction at all.
So that’s one of the reasons that people share content, examined in a fair amount of detail. People share content to communicate and that can mean that they’re sharing posts they think friends will find interesting, or things that they hope will spark some kind of conversation.
The other reason people share though is to express themselves. That is to say, that people share content often because they think it makes them look interesting, or because it says something about who they are.
If we’re being entirely honest, Facebook is a highly narcissistic place and one of the main things we do there is try and show off how interesting we are or what exciting lives we lead. For many people this means posting pictures of holidays, or updating our statuses with comments we think will make us look witty. We might also post an article about politics to our page because we’re stating that we agree with said politics and that way we demonstrate a) that we know about politics and b) that we hold X belief.
Similarly, we might share an article about the things that you experience from home because we work from home and we want people to know it, or know what that entails. Again, in this scenario we might even post content without reading it – in this scenario we post it almost like a badge of honor – not necessarily checking to make sure that it actually makes conclusions that we agree with.
Articles and Posts that Get Read
So a lot of content on Facebook just doesn’t get read. But what does it take to create a post that will get clicked on? And if your post isn’t getting read at all, what can you use to get it shared?
Here you have two major tools up your sleeve: the title and the image.
If you look at some of the most successful content on Facebook, a lot of it will fall into the category of ‘clickbait’. What this means, is that the title has been devised specifically to compel people to click on it. Now of course that has always been the purpose of pretty much any link but in this case, the difference is that this objective is pursued at the cost of all others – it doesn’t matter if the title is descriptive, accurate, useful… as long as it gets clicks.
And it really works! So what kind of techniques do titles use to become clickbait? Usually the aim is to leverage the curiosity of the reader – to ask some kind of question or to create suspense with some kind of cliffhanger.
So for instance, you might say something like: ‘You’ll never believe what happens next in this video!’
Sometimes the title will even take a first-person narrative perspective such as: ‘I’m so glad I read to the second paragraph…!!’
Another, slightly more subtle trick, is to make a list article and then to make one of the points sound particularly more interesting than the rest. So for instance: ‘Top Ten Ways to Save Time At Work – Number Two Changed My Life!’
This article is descriptive but then has the added trick of making the second item sound particularly interesting and even more so than the rest. The hope is that the prospective reader will be so eager to find out what number two is all about, that they’ll click on the link even though they normally might not.
Clickbait titles work and they work very well but make sure that you use them with caution. If your titles are too obviously clickbait, they will likely trigger a cynical reaction. Facebook users are becoming used to seeing clickbait and as such, they are now wary of such titles.
The real problem here is that many clickbait titles just fail to deliver on their promise. They promise to blow your mind but then offer underwhelming solutions. Sometimes the links don’t even lead to full articles!
So what can you do about it? The trick is to try and be a little more subtle about it and a little less deceptive. In other words, you still want to spark curiosity and interest but the difference is that you’re going to spark curiosity with a genuinely interesting topic that people haven’t heard before (how novel!).
Say you have a fitness website. How often have you seen articles saying ‘Ten Ways to Get a Six Pack’ or ‘How to Lose Weight Without Starving Yourself!’. All of us have read variations on that same article countless times before and as such, we’re kind of sick of hearing it. It’s no wonder that you have to resort to what amounts to trickery in order to get people to click again.
But now imagine an article on a new supplement that people haven’t heard of before. Or how about a new training technique called ‘cardio acceleration’? What about the fitness benefits of parkour? Or the different ways you can combine martial arts and weight training?
What you have now is a genuinely new topic that sounds interesting to anyone who is interested in the subject. There’s no reason to lie or to trick – this just genuinely is an interesting topic. This is what will make your articles really stand out. It goes deeper than just the title, it’s the topic and it’s the initial idea that leads to the creation of something new and different. This is in many ways the most important step in your article writing process.
Other than the title, the next tool you have to use to get people to click on your content is the image. Next to the title, this is what people will see first and it’s what will make your content stand out. Very quickly, a great image can sell the concept of your article and it can also be entertaining, funny, emotional or fascinating in its own right.
So think: what is the hook of your article and how can you get this across with a great image? What image will grab the attention of people who are scrolling through their newsfeed? And what image will be interesting enough that it warrants a like or a share on its own merit?
One good example is to use memes. Memes are images that come from popular culture – often stills from movies but sometimes just funny photos doing the rounds on the web. To these images, you then add two short lines of text to encapsulate your point in a funny way. Often the meme will follow a set formula and you will find that certain images and structures appear over and over again. ‘The most interesting man in the world’ meme for instance normally starts with ‘I don’t always…’ and then follows it up with ‘But when I do…’.
Memes are instantly recognizable, they’re funny, they’re witty and they’re trendy. If you can use one to make a point that people will agree with, then you can expect this to lead to a large number of shares. Otherwise, funny images, shocking images or anything else that grabs attention and tells a story can help you to get shares.
And better yet – why not add a video to your feed? Videos play automatically on Facebook often and are highly engaging. Just think about the last time you tried to hold a conversation when there was a TV in the room – you both kept staring at it right? Or think about the last time you started watching the ‘Top 100 Love Songs’ late at night and then stayed up to the very end despite not really caring about the resolution and certainly not wanting to go to bed that late…
Videos are fantastic for getting people to watch all the way through to the end and they can also be much more persuasive and really sell your point in an emotional way with music and a narrative script. These are less effective at getting people to click away to visit your site but if your objective is to build brand awareness or authority, or just to get likes and shares for your Facebook page, then it can be a great strategy.
So What Works?
So there are a lot of different things to consider when it comes to getting your content to perform well on Facebook. The main points though are that it should be…
Content that is:
- Interesting and unique
- Expressive and specifically targeted
- Trendy or on topic
Content that has:
- Amusing/captivating images
- Clickbait titles
- Fascinating titles