Businesses who rely on Facebook to gain new customers, engage with their community and spread brand awareness should revise their strategy – immediately – as the social media giant’s latest algorithmic tweak now ranks stories shared by people higher than those posted by businesses on their Facebook pages.

In short: Now that content people share on Facebook is more important than the content they consume, businesses need to get busy getting buzzy.    now that content people share on Facebook is considered more important than content they consume.

This comes out of Facebook’s “News Feed Values,” a set of five guiding principles released on June 30th explaining what content they show every month to its audience of 1.65 billion.

The question that companies need to ask themselves:  How can I create shareable content that meets Facebook’s primary goal of informing and entertaining? Fortunately, there’s a wealth of research to guide you.

In late 2014, the New York Times asked people what made them likely to share content, and from their comments the paper distilled shareability into five key points.

Five Points of Shareability

1. Appeal to consumers’ motivation to appeal to each other, not just your brand.

2. Trust is the cost of entry for getting shared.

3. Keep it simple and it will get shared.

4. Appeal to their sense of humor.

5. Embrace a sense of urgency.

It’s important to understand the different psychologies that come with liking and sharing material. People like a piece of content when they believe it, support it, and want to express they understand what someone is going through. People share content that says something about them personally and forges a bond between them and those they share it with.

You can see how these core concepts are put into practice by a Buzzsomo study, which analyzed 100 million posts from 2015. The most commonly shared posts had characteristics that can be used by any company in any industry.

Characteristics of Commonly Shared Posts

1. Surprise People: Folks love to share facts and images that are amazing and surprising. One of the most shared pieces of content carried the headline: Drinking champagne can prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

2. Leverage a Trend: Zombies were big news last year, and so was a post about a Zombie-themed “Walking Dead” cruise. Look for news and hot topics you can play off of.

3. Inspire People: “As clichéd as some of them might sound, people share inspirational quotes on Facebook, not only because they like them, but also because they feel motivated and empowered, and they want others to know about it,” according to Kissmetrics, an analytics firm. What inspirational quote speaks to your brand?

4. Create Stunning Picture Lists: A list of “52 Places to Go in 2015” combined with catchy photos rocked the social media world last year. Think of what images tie into your business. For example, Kissmetrics notes a company that sells gardening supplies could offer up pictures of world-famous botanical gardens or a mechanic could provide images of vintage cars he restored.

5. Offer Cute Babies and Animals: “This Site Will Make a Stuffed Clone of Your Pet” generated 680,000 shares. How can a pooch or an infant work for you?

6. Quiz People: A quiz that tells people about themselves is social-media gold.

7. Provide Warnings: A 2014 study from Marketo found people often share content to warn friends about scams and other dangers. What’s going on in your industry you could caution people about?

Working These Changes into Your Strategy

This list isn’t exhaustive, but it does provide a good handle on what makes content become contagious; and the most shareable content often combines a few of these characteristics – such as a quiz on a popular topic. Similarly, business-to-business shares can have slightly different qualities, focused more heavily on informative material like eBooks and infographics.

If Facebook is a core platform for you, create posts that inspire, amuse, warn, advise and unite people. It’s not easy. Your target customer personas should guide you. But if you do this correctly, Facebook’s new policy could make you a lot of friends – and a lot of shares.

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