A great way to increase the number of visitors to your site is to encourage your existing readers to share you content with their contacts on the popular social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
Not only does this help spread the word about your site or service, but it is also a good way to generate social proof for your website. When a reader lands on your page and sees that is has received multiple Tweets, Likes and +1s they are going to be more likely to stick around. With so many sites competing for their attention, a page with zero social metrics is going to have a hard job of convincing anyone to continue reading.
How to Encourage Social Shares
So how do you go about making it easy for your readers to decide to click on the Like button and share your content with their friends and associates? Well the first step in the process is to ensure you are creating excellent content for your readers.
If your content is lacking then no amount of good design, plugins, tips and tricks are going to increase your social shares.
So let’s assume you’ve taken care of the blogging fundamentals and are publishing great content that your readers love, what else can you do?
The best option is to install a plugin, or add buttons for all the social networks you are hoping to get featured on. For WordPress users, this can easily be done by installing a free plugin such as Floating Social Bar or Digg Digg.
Another more controversial option is to add a content locker to your WordPress site.
What is Content Locking?
As the name suggests, this approach locks or hides content on your site from your visitors. This content is then unlocked, or made visible, once the reader has completed a predefined action. In most cases, this will be sharing a link to the content on a social network of your or their choice.
Tips for Using a Content Locker
When deciding to go down the content locking route, you must be aware that you are effectively forcing your reader to do something in order to be able to access a part of your website. There is a good chance that you could alienate a portion of your readership who might feel uncomfortable about having to complete an action against their will, no matter how benign that action may be.
Do not overuse this feature and start adding it to all posts and pages. Only hide content when it’s of high value to your readers and really offers them something above and beyond the usual benefits of your content.
It is also important to recognise that some content, no matter how brilliant, just won’t get shared socially. A site dealing with bad breath or haemorrhoids won’t get Liked and Tweeted in any amount comparable with sites featuring cats wearing hats or the latest single from Justin Bieber, no matter how helpful the content.
Think about how shareable or socially acceptable the content of your site is before deciding to lock the content in exchange for a Tweet.
If your site features evergreen content that continues to be searched for, found and read, then going back and adding a content locker is a safe approach. You already know that the content is popular. Adding a ‘Tweet to Unlock’ button is a good way to leverage that on-going popularity and gain some social shares. This is a less risky approach to starting out with content locking and hiding new content that is untested with your readers.
When to Lock Content
So, just as there are some sites that are best off avoiding using content lockers, there are also types of content that are better suited to this method of encouraging social sharing. As the content must be of high value or interest to your readers, in order to prevent them from clicking the back button, rather than the share button, this approach is best used on your most popular pages.
Some examples of when to use a content locker include:
- Income reports: people love reading about how much money a site makes. Locking the figures on an income report is a relatively safe bet for increasing your social shares.
- Downloads: if you are offering something for free such as plugin, a report or a guide then requiring your readers to pay with a Tweet seems like a fair exchange.
- Premium categories: some sites charge money for access to premium content and you use the same approach for encouraging social shares. Create in-depth tutorials, detailed travel guides, high quality photos galleries or anything else that is extra high quality compared to the rest of your site’s content, and then lock it in exchange for a share.
So now you are aware of the concept of content locking and what to do and what not to do, it’s time to explore the options for adding this functionality to your WordPress site.
The Best Content Locker Plugins
Like almost anything you can think of with WordPress, you can begin applying this strategy to your site very easily and quickly by using a plugin. There are many to choose from and here is our roundup of the best options, both free and premium:
Social Locker for WordPress
This is a popular premium plugin with an affordable price tag. Available from Code Canyon, the Social Locker gives your readers a reason to share your content with their contacts and allows them to do so with Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter and LinkedIn. It can also be used to increase your followers instead of getting tweets. For an in-depth look at this tool, check out our Social Locker plugin review.
There is also a free version of this plugin available here.
Advanced Facebook Content Locker
If Facebook is your social platform of choice then this plugin and its advanced features will be of interest to you. It remembers if your visitors have shared your content previously to avoid asking them to do so again. You can also set timing options for the plugin to give you more flexibility over how it works on your site. It is also easy to change the appearance of the plugin, such as the borders, backgrounds and fonts.
Social Content Locker
This is a secure content locker that will not give your content away until it is shared. It works with the four most popular networks: Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn to help give your site the maximum exposure. The plugin also boasts cross browser compatibility. Creating the lockers is easy thanks to the toolbar button that this plugin adds to the post editor.
Like 2 Get
This is a free plugin for locking your content in exchange for a social share. It works with Twitter, Facebook and Google+ so all the most popular platforms are covered. The plugin uses shortcodes for inserting the unlock buttons into your posts. This is a popular free option with a positive rating on WordPress.org.
This premium plugin allows you to set a number of unlock conditions on your content. You can also create an unlimited amount of lockers for use on your posts and pages. This means you can build lockers that target specific content on your sites and not just use a generic locker messages throughout your site. Search engines do not see that the WP Locked plugin is active on your site, preventing any judgements they might make on using these tactics from affecting your site.
This is a bargain premium content locker plugin for WordPress from the WP Eden team. It works with Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter but not LinkedIn so bear that in mind if that platform is part of your online marketing strategy. Once installed a button will be added to your post editor for easy insertion into your posts and pages. The content you wish to lick will be surrounded by a shortcode which is very easy to setup.
Ninja Popups for WordPress
This is a very popular plugin that not only contains a social locker but also a subscription locker, email marketing integration and many more great features. It can use popups on page load or page exit to prompt an action from your readers. Ninja Popups can also show you statistics on how your popups are performing.
Subscribe to Unlock
This premium option is slightly different as it grants access to content in exchange for a user signing up to your mailing list. As the saying goes “the money is in the list”, so anything that can help you to grow your number of subscribers deservers a closer look.
Social lockers are becoming increasingly popular and are moving out of the realm of ‘make money online’ and ‘internet marketing’ sites. While they should be used sparingly, they do have the potential to boost your social reach and help promote your site in an increasing number of ways.
If your content is truly shareable and you are giving away something that provides real value, then granting access in exchange for a subscription or social share seems like a reasonable request.