Top 10 Reasons Why Great Content Fails on Social Media


One day I published a post that took me a long time to write.

It was well crafted, timely, pillar content.

You won’t believe what happened next!

Nothing happened!

It failed miserably on social media, even on the site I targeted directly.

Sounds familiar? Yes, it does! Admit it! Then read on.

How I Failed on Social Media Like a Noob

OK, I may be biased, maybe it was just the proverbial “great content”.

I’d also rather say “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 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.

Anyway. I failed. Like a noob. Yet I learned my lesson. Here is the outcome of my analysis.

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 creative headline example 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 a niche community where otherwise it would have ruled the homepage.

I was silly enough to share it without changing the headline. I should have called it something like “111+ Most Important Online Marketing Resources of All Time” instead.

The original headline simply does not give you a clue what the post is about and why anybody should care for it.

The Sharer

Now this is something most social media mavens already know and most bloggers hate, being shared by a “nobody”.

When it comes to a niche community where every post can be shared only once it’s crucial that a popular member shares your content.

It’s often also disastrous when someone shares who will describe your post as “good post about blogging”. Why? Where all other posts are

  • outstanding
  • amazing
  • must-read

a post that is just “good” or even worse “nice” will fail. Good means mediocre these days. Nice is just a polite term for below average.

In case 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.

Often a close-knit niche community like Growth Hackers or Product Hunt will jump-start the sharing process elsewhere, including the major networks like Facebook or Twitter.

The Audience


You should know beforehand who you create a piece of content for.

  • Bloggers?
  • Website owners?
  • The social media crowd?

Which social media site does your audience use actually?

When sharing a post on beautiful wedding dresses you probably won’t use Reddit to spread it but Pinterest instead.

You may write an excellent post on wedding preparation with lots of useful pieces of advice…

Yet without a proper vertical teaser image or rather several photos you won’t succeed on Pinterest either.

Study your audience and the places it convenes at beforehand for a while at least.

Don’t just dump your self-promotional content while passing by.

You won’t enter the Indian market selling beef either!

Each site has specific demographics and topical preferences you must take into account.

The Timing
This one is really important. Do you write in English?

You should if you want to succeed on social media. Then you basically write for the US.

My blog here has ca.

  • 50% US traffic
  • 10% from the UK
  • 5% Australia etc.

although my English is far from perfect. It’s not a problem of course.

Just take into account that your readers might still sleep.

Thus you also have to take different time zones into consideration and not share 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 ;-)

Once a great post of mine failed miserably after it was submitted on Friday evening to a marketing community.

It had several votes by Monday when new content has been already voted up instead.

The Appearance
Most people decide whether they leave your site in seconds or rather milliseconds.

Thus you have to grip them by their throat.

You really need an eye-catcher. It doesn’t have to be an image of an almost naked lady but neither just a logo of a corporation that gets covered every day.

Use striking images!

My post that failed had its images downsized so drastically that they were unintelligible. Don’t just use thumbnails!

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. Don’t ostracize visitors with huge overlays.

Last but not least: When the page copy is one huge piece of text I won’t torture my strained eyes either. Consider readability or fail.

The Source
Now this might not be obvious, but some sites are less likely to succeed on some social media than others.

The SEO 2 blog will probably never ever go viral on Facebook because the majority of people does not read posts about SEO at all.

The same post might succeed being published elsewhere but not here.

Some people publish pretty meaningless pieces on Forbes and get hundreds of shares.

Also some people are almost a persona non grata on some sites.

That’s why Indian bloggers for example sometimes use American sounding names.

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 despite of it.

Some things are just “yesterday’s news”.

Do not write another me too post when the topic has been already covered to excess.

Also when similar content already abounds at least attempt to improve upon the existing one.

The Genre
In literature we have poetry and prose and everything in-between.

We also have drama, comedy and horror movies.

At the box office or on social media weird experimental mixes often won’t succeed as people will be confused. You have to meet expectations.

Decide whether upfront you write a rant, list or a tutorial.

When you write an analysis do not make it too opinionated etc.

The Categorization
I see this mistake every day on social media. Many social sites are very dependent of categorization.

Just think of Pinterest. Fashion won’t work in the architecture category and vice versa.

Be as specific and as broad as possible at the same time.

A very broad category like “technology” which deals with many topics might have a large audience.

Just because your blog is part of the Internet and uses technology does not make this topic the right one.

A blogging category might be followed by a much smaller number of people but have a more dedicated community that is likelier to share.

The Initial Push
The initial push means making your friends and peers online aware of your post.

Did someone share your post after you hit publish?

In case you haven’t a large number of subscribers/fans your content won’t get noticed at all.

Now you have to contact people of your social network on the Web to ask them to share for you.

By now this practice is called outreach and pretty common so make sure not to contact strangers and the same people everybody else is bugging already.

Without the initial push of a 12 shares by your peers you won’t even get noticed at most social sites.

You will end up as a bleep among thousands.

Rally for your post if you truly believe it’s worth it.

Don’t annoy people though!

By now you may already sense that it’s not just about “content is king” on social media. It depends.

On the democratic Web link is president. Get as much engagement as possible.

The good news is: you can overcome most of these 10 reasons why great content fails on social media.

Just try not to make these mistakes next time for a start.

Ironically I published this post on a Friday night so it might get overlooked.

Nonetheless, do not wait, share it! You can refrain from sharing as well.

Either way: I need some proof for my theories.

Updated: December 4th, 2017. Removed broken link. Added new one.

Updated: November 26th, 2016. I added new links and context. I removed the original image for copyright reasons and added a new one. I fixed readability and the underlying code.

Originally published on May 9th, 2008.