How We Increased Content Shares by 200% After Simplifying CTAs


You know that feeling of pride you get after your company puts together a piece of content that is just brilliant? You want everyone to see it, and you have full confidence that it will delight anyone that it reaches.

But how do you make that happen in a cost-efficient way?

Here’s a novel idea: get a ridiculously high number of people to share it on social media.

When someone shares a link to your content on social media, they are helping you amplify your reach for free.

That sounds great, right? Of course, not all traffic is created equal, and perhaps some of the friends of your users do not fit your target audience. But it’s tough to argue with free traffic; thus, social shares are universally beloved.

If you are trying to reach a general audience, increasing social shares for your content is the way to go and today I’ll show you how you can optimize your site to do just that.

Learn how to get a 200% bump in social sharing for your content
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The Research

A couple of years ago a little media company called Upworthy shook up the online publishing world with it’s viral stories.

upworthy screenshot

The main thing most people know about Upworthy is that they use sensationalized and mysterious headlines to get you to click and read a story or watch a video.

For example, “At First We Weren’t Convinced. But Then We Saw What This Woman Actually Does Every Day.”

The second thing most people know about Upworthy is that their Facebook newsfeed is often clogged up with Upworthy content being shared by friends.

Whether you love or hate the headline formula that Upworthy employs to get clicks, you cannot deny that it’s an effective method for getting people to share their content on social media.

In an effort to increase our own content shares, we analyzed what Upworthy was doing and today we’ll share that information with you .

Warning: what we found will shock you! Haha.

1. Put a Focus on Facebook Shares

Facebook is the social network with the largest number of users, and it’s the one that most companies will want to focus on getting shares from to get widespread reach.

Upworthy quickly became one of the best websites at getting people to share their stories on Facebook.

Here’s a graph published in Business Insider showing the number of shares per article by various popular content publishing sites in 2013.

2013 share chart


The comparison between Upworthy and it’s next closest competitor is downright ridiculous.

Since Facebook shares are so valuable, it makes sense to prioritize Facebook among the social sharing button options, which is exactly what Upworthy does.

Here’s a screenshot of an article on their site, along with all of their social sharing options:

upworthy screenshot 2You can clearly see, there is a strong emphasis on Facebook since shares from Facebook will garner the largest reach. It just makes sense that we should feature the network that delivers the most value, right?

As you’ll see later in this article, we tested this theory out and the results were outrageous. The results will — dare I say — shock you.

In all seriousness, once we prioritized Facebook sharing over the other social networks, our number of shares increased dramatically.

2. Mind The Curiosity Gap

One of the top methods that Upworthy uses to get people to click and share is to play into the curiosity gap.

What the heck is the curiosity gap?

curiosity gap

The curiosity gap occurs when something piques your interest just enough to encourage you to click and learn more.

At Qzzr, we play into the curiosity gap by creating viral quizzes that people complete because they are curious to learn more about their identity.

qzzr makerI’m not telling you this because I want to talk about my own company in the middle of this post, but rather because it’s a key element.

The #1 type of content that people share on Facebook is “identity related.”

According to Facebook, “Upworthy realized early that people post stories to Facebook to help express their identities. People post things they believe in and want to let others know where they stand.”

This means you can increase your own content shares if you can relate the info you want shared back to the user’s identity in some way.

You Can Always Improve

The final takeaway we learned from Upworthy is that the process of improving the number of social shares is the same as improving any other conversion rate — always be testing.

Upworthy is constantly running a/b tests on their share buttons, share CTAs, placement of share buttons, placement of Facebook Like buttons, and so on. It’s a never-ending process that comes with huge rewards.


The Experiment

We ran an a/b test on the design of our quiz results page with the goal of improving our social media share rate.

You can see on the original page we included multiple share buttons to like, share, tweet, comment, and post to Facebook. Here is an example of what the results page looked like:

original results page

We then went to work on our challenger page. Here are the changes that we made:

  • Simplified the share options down to just one “Share on Facebook”
  • Added a secondary, smaller CTA that says “share elsewhere” if that is a desired option
  • Improved the CTA from the basic “like,” “share,” and “tweet” to the stronger “Share on Facebook”
  • Increased the size of the share button significantly
  • Added a more eye-catching color to the share button

Here is an example of what the challenger results page looked like:

challenger results page

We ran this test across 10,000 quizzes, and we were blown away by what we found.

The Results

The results of this a/b test were clear: the challenger vastly outperformed the original results page.

In fact, the challenger resulted in a 200% increase in social media shares.

Based on these exciting test results, we rolled out this re-designed results page to all of our quizzes and are seeing increased social sharing across the board.

This is the beauty of a/b testing and why it’s such a powerful tool for marketing. In all honesty, I like the design of the original results page more, but apparently I’m vastly outnumbered. The crowd has spoken: let there be a simplified results page for everyone.

So, how can you increase shares of your content on social media?

  1. Place an emphasis on Facebook share buttons  if your goal is reaching as many people as possible.
  2. Use headlines and copy that really engages your reader.
  3. Frame your content in a way that makes it something a user can identify with.

If you do these three things you’ll be putting together a recipe for content sharing success.

Read other Crazy Egg articles by Chris Kilbourn.

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