Last week Proven.com shared an analysis of the top HR blogs and what really makes their content work. Jessica and I were happy to see B4J appear on the list but we were just as excited by the analysis itself, which you should all check out. The analysis looked at 5000 posts from 15 blogs (pulled from their larger list of top 75 HR blogs published earlier this year), and broke the virality of those posts down into several factors:
Proven “looked at number of shares, sharing sources, publication days, sentiment analysis, Emotional Marketing Values (EMV), common article themes, and article length to see what impacts content sharing.” Although many of their results should be unsurprising, they are all valuable – especially for us bloggers. Hard numbers are always helpful.
I talk a lot about scope and length with our writers but what even is long on the internet and in the HR sphere? (I was recently horrified to learn that 1500 words is now considered long form at some publications.) But because Proven looked specifically at the shareability of HR blogs, we now know: while shorter articles are undoubtedly the new normal for internet writing, mid-length articles are still the ones that get the most shares. The importance of mid-length and long-form in creating a well-rounded editorial strategy is something I’ve seen hammered home over and over. In the HR sphere specifically, “mid-length” means 750-1000 words. Sean Falconer from Proven points out that while even longer articles do better on Facebook, LinkedIn skews a bit shorter and LinkedIn is where HR bloggers and blog readers are more likely to share.
Also unsurprising is that LinkedIn is the standout best platform for HR bloggers. It’s the number one social media network for recruiters and HR professionals and it’s increasingly a solid network for re-shared and original content. Like HuffPo, Buzzfeed and other unconventional platforms before them, LinkedIn has made a concerted effort to push for high-quality original content on the network, even bringing on an editorial team to curate that content. Proven found that “71% of the total shares from all 5,000 articles was on LinkedIn. The average number of shares on LinkedIn per article was 53, while Facebook was 19, and Google+ was only 3.” (Poor Google+, nobody loves you.) Not only is this an argument for consistently sharing your content on LinkedIn, it’s an argument for developing a LinkedIn original content strategy. If LinkedIn is your social media home base, make that base comfortable and appealing to your guests, and encourage them to sit down and chat.
HR Should Get Emotional (But Not Too Emotional)
But social media strategies aside, the key finding for me was the role of emotion.
Emotion matters – Proven found that emotional content performs better than dry content. That is, readers are interested in opinions and feelings, not just facts. And also unsurprisingly, positive emotion is more shareable than negative. Joy is contagious and motivating, which is why your Facebook feed is always full of pictures of cats and babies and cute Buzzfeed and Uproxx lists. But positive emotions also make it easy to quickly communicate big ideas that might otherwise be scary. Thought leadership, driving the conversation in HR, is just as much about making the improbable seem possible, as it is about having unique ideas. It’s not just that you were the first to see the importance of SnapChat in employer branding, but that you also advanced possible strategies for how to use it.
We already know how important positivity is in motivating employees – a lot of the same strategies work in holding the attention and good will of readers, and in communicating our best ideas.
Of course negative emotional content works too, but not always in the way that HR bloggers might hope for. Negative content can trigger strong responses and mobilize readers into being activists (just look at politics and social movements to see that in action) but it can also trigger a kind of fight or flight response in readers. Going negative works in politics and sometimes even in marketing, but it’s a dicier prospect when it comes to sharing good ideas and learning from each other – which is what we’re all here for, right? Positive reinforcement is crucial to coaching at work and it’s just as crucial to helping managers wrap their heads around your brilliant new strategy or shocking set of statistics.
Helping to map out your readers’ first steps is the spoonful of sugar that helps bitter medicine go down, but you shouldn’t always stay positive.
When it comes to inequality in the workplace, flattening wage growth or various and sundry economic disasters, disappointment is fair, honest and good. So is anger. While Proven found that positive emotion is more shareable – especially positive sentiment in the title or introductory remarks – it also found that some of the most popular topics in HR blogging remain culture, teamwork and people. We can’t talk about those topics without talking about the ways that HR and recruiting have succeeded and failed in the past – because acknowledging and learning from those failures is the only way forward. You want to see a more diverse and culturally vibrant tech industry? Well, you have to acknowledge the lack of diversity in the industry as is. Anger, constructive, honest anger, is ok in HR and professional blogging, and it’s positively shareable when it includes a clear call to action.
HR and recruiting are people-focused industries, and naturally what interests us and our readers most is, well, people-focused topics. Honest emotional stances on everything from social media to employee satisfaction to ATS’, when combined with rigorous thinking, are everything in HR – because people are feeling machines as much as they are thinking machines, and no matter how good your strategy, it won’t work if it doesn’t feel right.
You can read Proven’s full analysis, which includes suggestions on when to post, how often, and more hints about what your readers are really into here.