Social 'virality' is a frequently misunderstood concept. Many people, including community managers, assume that people simply share content that they like. This assumption is easy to understand, but it is actually incorrect. The content that people share is not necessarily content that they like, it is content that they think other people will like.

Social Media is about Projecting an Image

Most people use social media to paint a picture of themselves in the way they want to be perceived. This means that they share jokes they think other people will find funny, post information they think other people won't know, and talk about things other people might think are exciting. Most adults would never admit that they cared about what's going on with One Direction, but they may be inclined to talk about the latest episode of Game of Thrones.

Of course, what people talk about and what they click on are two different things. Imagine you run a business selling weight loss supplements. The people who follow you are people who want to lose weight and find out about special offers you have on those supplements. If you tweet about your supplements, you might get your followers to click on your links and read your posts, or even buy your products, but your content won't go viral no matter how informative and useful your content is, it won't get shared.

Motivating People to Share Your Content

If you want people to share your content, you have two options: change the content you publish, or find ways to extend the reach of your current content. The best approach is to try both techniques. Find out what the people who follow your followers like, and start sharing that kind of content. Pay attention to the kinds of topics that are making the news and publish content based on those topics. Major news events or pop-culture talk is likely to get shared among a much wider audience than niche-specific content. If you consistently post this kind of content you will likely pick up many followers.

In addition to sharing content that has a lot of potential for social virality, continue to share your niche-specific content. However, instead of sharing this content with only your followers, seek out Facebook groups, Pinterest pinboards and Twitter hashtags followed by people who are actively involved in your niche. These people may not follow you at the moment, but they are more likely to share the content that you really want to promote.

Mastering the art of creating content that achieves social virality takes a lot of practice, but it is worth the effort. The right content, if it is shared with the right people at the right time, can spread quickly and achieve a reach far beyond what you would ever see from traditional paid advertising.