The ultimate guide to healthy sharing

Each of the following five stories has appeared on ninemsn’s Health site during the past six months:

One of them received 620 Facebook shares, more than the other four combined. Can you guess which?

Surprisingly (to me, at least) the winner is the last on the list. Published in the lead up to cystic fibrosis’s annual fund-raising push, 65 Roses Day, the story features a former colleague of Share Wars’, Mark Cushway, who has lived beyond the 37-year life expectancy of people with CF.

It’s an uplifting piece with a striking photo of Mark taking treatment alongside daughter, Em.

When I asked Mark, who runs a publishing business, why he thought the story was shared so widely, he nominated the picture and a “feel good” factor that distinguished it from the other rare media coverage CF receives.

“It’s a hopeful story about someone living beyond their life expectancy and thriving,” Mark says.

“This is very different tale to that written in the past of kids with CF dying in hospital.”

Mark emailed the link to CF Australia and CF NSW who posted it on the 65 Roses Day Facebook page, where it received 60 likes. He also added it to friends’ Facebook pages.

Cystic fibrosis sufferer Mark Cushway with daughter, Em.

Eureka ... Mark Cushway's story was sharing gold.

“I posted it on the Facebook walls of about 10 to 15 of my closest friends and said ‘I think you’ll like this story’. Most of these simply liked it but a few reposted it. I think it gained some traction from there,” he says.

Mark also identified the timing of the story, which was published one day before 65 Roses Day, as another share driver.

Interestingly, an earlier cause-based story published in ninemsn Health about RU OK Day – to raise awareness about male suicide – achieved a similar number of shares. It, too, was posted just 24 hours before the day itself.

From this, Share Wars somewhat recklessly hypothesises that the following elements might increase the likelihood of a story being shared:

  • About charity/awareness events published about 24 hours beforehand
  • Relevant to content-hungry support networks (estimated at about 17,000 for CF in Australia, at six supporters per person with CF)
  • Hopeful, feel-good narrative
  • Link seeding (posting the link on other sites)

One thing is certain. These stories would never have been written if page views were the measure of success. But if you use shares as the key performance metric, as some publishers are starting to (because sharing brings in new users), they move into ninemsn Health’s all-time hall of fame.

Alongside fellow entrants such as ‘Why sex makes men healthier’ (707 shares) and ‘Women have a higher pain threshold than men’ (532 shares), it’s quite the place to be.


Andrew Hunter

About Andrew Hunter

Andrew Hunter is Editor-in-Chief of Microsoft's MSN. Twitter: @Huntzie

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