Top 10 Reasons Why Great Content Fails on Social Media


Can’t Fail Cafe – image by pbo31.

Recently I wrote a guest post that took me a long time to write and was well crafted timely pillar content which nonetheless failed miserably on social media, even the site I targeted directly. OK, I may be biased, maybe it was just “great content”, or rather a great article as I do not like the fuzzy term “content”. It was a how to that grew to be a small tutorial in fact. As this was a guest post and it targeted my favorite community Mixx I was really disappointed. After I overcame the ensuing suicidal tendencies I started analyzing what happened and comparing it to other posts both successful and not.

Now I present you the outcome, the top 10 reasons why great content fails on social media:

The Headline
The headline is crucial, without a proper, intriguing, kick-ass headline the best content will fail. Take a look at this post at SEO ROI which also failed miserably: “The Biggest, Baddest, Resource Bonanza Bar None!
What the heck is it about? Nobody knew and thus it failed even on Sphinn where otherwise it would have ruled the homepage. I was silly enough to submit it without changing the headline. I should have called it something like “111+ Most Important Online Marketing Resources of All Time” instead.
Basically the original title just does not give you a clue what the post is about and why anybody should care for it.

The Submitter
Now this is something most social media mavens already know and most bloggers hate, being submitted by a nobody. It’s often as bad when someone submits who will describe your post as “good post about blogging” where all other posts are outstanding, amazing or must-read, a post that is just “good” will fail. So if you’re a blogger and you just provided the best list post of you blogging career make sure someones submits it who can get it the attention it deserves.

The Target Audience
You should know beforehand who you target with a post. Bloggers? Webmasters? The social media crowd? Which social media site? Just today I noticed someone who submitted a post to Digg that used a title targeting web developers. Now the submission to Digg included the word “SEO” instead which equals to self-annihilation on Digg. No story that contains “SEO” in its title makes the Digg front page. So study your audience at least a little. You won’t enter the Indian market selling beef either! Each site has specific topical preferences you must take into account.

The Time Submitted
This one is really important. If you write in English, and you should if you want to succeed on social media, you basically write for the US. I have more than 50% US traffic, 10% Canada etc. although my English is far from perfect. So you have to take time zones into consideration and not submit at night but in the morning or during day time.

Also a post submitted on the weekend might get overlooked by many, especially if it’s dealing with business stuff. Most other business people also have business hours ;-) Just recently a great post of mine failed miserably after it was submitted on Friday evening to Sphinn. It had 21 votes on Monday when the 3 day “upcoming” phase ended.

The Appearance
Most people decide whether they leave your site in seconds or rather milliseconds. So you have to grip them by their throat. You really need an eye-catcher. Lidija of Blog Well understood it very well when she posted her legendary b00bs/resources post. My guest post which failed had it’s images downsized so drastically that they were unintelligible. You couldn’t discern anything. They were meant as illustration of the tutorial. A tutorial with useless images is no tutorial.

Of course if the only thing above the fold/scroll are Google or banner ads I will leave immediately. Last but not least: If the page copy is one huge piece of text I won’t torture my strained eyes either.

The Source
Now this might not be obvious, but some sites will never succeed on some social media. SEO 2.0 will never ever get to the front page of Digg as the Digg bury brigade does not read SEO posts (posts about SEO) at all, they hit “bury” right away when spotting the term “SEO”. The same post might succeed being published elsewhere but not here.

Also some people are persona non grata on some sites, like Jason “SEO is bullshit” Calacanis e.g. on Sphinn. An a-list blogger might succeed even with rather poor content. An unknown blogger must be twice as good to be successful.

The Me Too Factor
Some topics are hot as long as they haven’t been covered by dozens of others days, weeks or months earlier. When people are tired of some kind of content it can be the best but it will fail anyways. So not write another me too post when the topic has been already covered to excess.

The Genre
In literature we have poetry and prose and everything inbetween. We also have drama, comedy and horror movies. At the box office or on social media weird experimental mixes won’t succeed as people will be confused. So decide if you write a list or a tutorial. If you write an analysis do not make it opinionated etc.

The Categorization
I see this mistake every day on StumbleUpon. SU is very dependent on it’s categories/tags. Without adding the right categories nobody potentially interested will even see your post. Just recently my “Flagship Blogging” post has been submitted in the “Internet” category to SU. This is a very broad category which deals with many topics, but just because blogs are part of the Internet does not make this category the right one. StumbleUpon has the weblogs/blogs category for this, also writing is fitting in this case. This is just one of dozens examples of miscategorization at StumbleUpon.

The Initial Push
The initial push means making your friends and peers online aware of your post. Did someone submit your post? Now you have to contact people of your social network on the Web to ask them to vote for you. Without the initial push of a 12 votes by your peers you won’t even get noticed at most social sites. You will end up as a bleep among thousands. So rally for your post if you truly believe it’s worth it.

So by now you may already sense that it’s not just about content is king on social media. It depends. A king is nothing without a kingdom or an army. The good news is: You can overcome most of these 10 reasons why great content fails on social media. So try not to make these mistakes next time.

Ironically I published this post on a Friday night so any submission will fail ;-)

Nonetheless, do not wait, submit it, it’s my bad this time. Also I need some proof for my theories.