It would be impossible to know what the most shared blog post of all time would be, given the sheer volume of posts (including viral ones) that are released every single day. But if there is one website that embodies popular posts as a concept, it has to be Buzzfeed.
Not only has Buzzfeed managed to release a steady stream of heavily shared content since their inception, they have changed the acceptable format of list articles, which were already a hot commodity.
Their 45 Most Powerful Images of 2011 has been shared tens of millions of times and their 21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity is a regular feature across all social platforms. If we look at these two posts we can see two major connections: 1) they rely on emotional triggers to make an impact and 2) they are picture lists.
Following by their example, we can make posts that are practically impossible not to share and spread.
The Stats On Image Posts
Image posts of all kinds fall under two primary categories: visual marketing and content marketing. Looking over some basic stats for 2017 can give us some insight into why these posts are successful and how they are more effective now than ever before.
According to Social Media Examiner, for 74% of marketers visual assets have become more important in their content development than blogging or videos.
Content Marketing Institute found that in 2016, B2B marketers had made visual marketing their primary focus for engagement.
Buzzsumo analyzed a million posts from popular blogs and found that those with an image every 75 to 100 words had twice as many social shares.
While this is a broader look at visuals in marketing it can give us a peek behind the curtain and show us why it is that these Buzzfeed posts were so popular. People like images, it evokes an immediate response and opinion. Which brings us to another point…emotional advertising.
Neuromarketing did a study back in 2009 and found that emotional advertising provided a 31% profit boost for companies who employed it. While content marketing is a bit of a different vein, it is attached to the same heart. So applying those principles to a visual piece of content, such as in the two Buzzfeed examples, we see exactly what it is being done.
Now it is time to start employing the same methods ourselves.
What Picture Lists Are and What They Are Not
Thanks to my habit of following Pinterest links to their original sources I have come across an alarming trend. There are many websites out there that will literally just dump a bunch of images into a never ending scroll page that just keeps loading and loading. These are usually published as WordPress blog posts or pages.
Each of these pages are cluttered, disorganized and a real pain to scroll through. But some are a little more. A few times I have gone back up to the top and realized that the page has a title, usually something like, “500 photos that will make you pee yourself laughing”. You can see what they are doing: republishing other people’s images with no curation or care, in an attempt to get a whole mess of social media shares from people who come across their photos in Google Images.
This form of backlinking is dishonest and against the very point of a picture list post. It doesn’t provide anything to the viewer, has no theme and makes it much harder to find what you are looking for than it ever should be.
Consider the above an example of what picture lists AREN’T. Now for what they ARE:
A picture list provides a quick way of getting a point across. It connects on an emotional level through each image, drawing together a central theme or purpose even if the photos are not entirely related.
Let’s look again at the Buzzfeed examples above. Both of them have a central theme and then the photos follow that concept. The photos themselves are not connected and show different events from different times and places. But from the first image to the last you can feel an emotional wave building, increasing your response as you move through each photo and read the titles and short descriptions that give them context.
Using a different example, WikiHow is a site that shows how to do just about anything with visual examples for each step. They follow by a format that fits into the statistic about posts that have an image every 75 to 100 words. They are effective in their mission of guiding readers through steps but have a more word thorough presentation than Buzzfeed’s approach.
Each of these are great examples of how to properly create a picture post that gets shared across the web.
Things That Every Picture Post Needs To Have
This one is pretty straight forward, but let’s break down what you should include to make a picture post that everyone wants to show their friends:
- It needs a good number of photos. That means not too many, not too few. Of course, being a skimmable article it can be longer than if it had a lot of lengthy paragraphs. So aim for a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 50. Anything more or less than that and you are going to be lessening your chances of getting a social share.
- Play with formats and media types: For example, here’s how to create an online catalog or animated GIFs. Add visual quotes! You can find lost of great quotes using sites like Best Quotes of the Day and then put them on an inspiring image. These usually are spread very easily
- It needs succinct captions. A long text explanation of each visual is murder for these posts. One or two sentences, written to be snappy and quickly describe it, will work a lot better. Avoid duplicate content though! You want to be unique and original. Use tools like Plagiarismcheck.org to make sure your articles are unique.
- It needs a call to action. CTA’s work, people! Remind your readers that they should share your post and you will see a huge boost in the people who do. Seriously, add a CTA. Look at this site for an example.
- Use Viral Content Bee for social media promotion.
- Use Cyfe to schedule social media sharing of your article. Make sure to schedule as many as 10 tweets going months ahead to keep promoting your article: