5 Ways To Make Your Content More Compelling, Clickable (and Maybe Even Go Viral)

What makes you click? Or read? Or listen? Or, better yet, share a message with your friends?

Ever wonder that?

Me too.

Whether you’re writing a message for Sunday,  a blog post, a conference workshop, your notes for hosting an event or even writing an email you hope won’t instantly trigger the delete key, we all hope what we write and speak will be well received.

And yet every day, a lot of potentially great content disappears into the ether, never to be heard from or seen again. And others gets shared by hundreds, thousands, or even millions.


Believe it or not, most content that resonates share 5 characteristics. With an eye for these 5, you might soon find your content resonating more than it does now.

Students outdoor with digital tablet


It Starts with Great Content…But

There are a few things I’m going to assume. Because there isn’t really that much of a market for terrible content, let’s assume your content is:

High quality


Of value to people

This is true whether you’re speaking, writing or however you’re communicating.

No tweak or method is likely to make bad content more shareable.

Just wanted to make sure we’re all on the same page on that issue.


A Little Study in What Connects

Last year I met Brian Orme. You may or may not have heard of Brian, but you’ve likely been touched by his passion for helping leaders access great content.

Brian is the editor of Outreach Magazine, ChurchLeaders.com, SermonCentral, ChurchPlants and the exceptionally popular FaithIt. The content he edits is read by millions every day. You actually can’t be in senior leadership in ministry and not have been impacted by the content Brian edits.  Brian, by the way, is also a really great guy.

Brian and I have had a few conversations about what makes some content connect while other content just doesn’t.

We isolated five characteristics that seem to make content click with people. It’s unscientific for sure, but if it helps you preach better, teach better, lead better and write better…well then that’s awesome. It will advance the mission we’re all on.


5 Ways to Make Content Compelling, Clickable (and Maybe Even Viral)

Before we get started, let me clear up one more thing . I don’t think you can make content go viral. You can probably make it more compelling and more clickable. But you can’t make it go viral.

However, content that goes viral often has unique characteristics. Giving your piece these 5 characteristics below won’t make it go viral, but if anything you offer ever does go viral or gets shared disproportionately, it likely has some or all of these 5 characteristics.


1. Headlines and Titles That Intrigue You

 Everyone reads your headline (or subject line or title) before they read what you wrote. A bad headline can kill a great article.

So how do you write a great headline? There’s a ton of content out there on how to write magnetic headlines. Here are a few things that connect:

List headlines (as in 8 Reasons Most Churches Never Break the 200 Attendance Mark)

Why headlines (as in Why Christians Should Let Non-Christians Off the Moral Hook)

What headlines (as in What To Do When People Want a Church To Grow, but Not Change)

How headlines (as in How to Reach People Who Think They Don’t Need God)

Question headlines (as in How Do You Kill the Cynicism Inside You?)

Headlines that tap into human emotion (as in If You’re Not Married and You Do This, It’s Dangerous. And the Reason Will Make Perfect Sense After You Hear It)

There are other ways to connect, but that will get you started. The bottom line?

Every title contains a promise. A reason, an answer, a solution or even some intrigue that makes you want to click.


2. Surprising Elements

When you scan through a piece, take time to write sub-titles and sub-headlines so that they strike people a little different than they might expect.

If you’re key points are all ‘predictable’ (you could read them on any other site….), then the question is “why would I read yours?” I already know everything you’ve written.

So offer a surprise.

When I wrote my piece on what do with people who want a church to grow but not change, I included a heading that said “Ban Delusional Talk”.  I’d never heard that phrase used that way before but I knew it summarized what happens around a lot of leadership tables. People talk about things they know aren’t true.

Chances are you not going to be the first person to say something (there is nothing new under the sun), so offer some surprises in the way you say it. Chances are it will make it more memorable.


3. Helpful Content

Human nature asks, ‘what’s in it for me?’ It might be an unfortunate question, but you ignore it to your peril.

Make sure your content is helpful. People share and talk about what helps them.

I always ask myself, how is this piece going to help people? If I can’t answer it, I shouldn’t preach it/write it/send it. Period.

If you want to write or speak unhelpful content, just never count on having an audience.


4. Resonance

Resonance happens when a sound made by one object (say you) causes a vibration in a neighbouring object (say your listener or reader). Whenever it happens, resonance is incredible.

You’ve experienced resonance whenever something someone else says echoes with your own experience or thinking. You end up saying things like exactly, or that’s what’s happening to me, or I never knew how to put that into words.

You can create resonance in a piece using a:

Common emotion

Common experience

Common problem

Once you’ve established resonance, you then offer a solution that’s helpful and occasionally surprising (I never thought of that!). And, of course, if your conclusion or solution really clicks with people, it will resonate again.

Please realize: we share things that resonate.


5. Human Connection

As much as I love ideas (and I do), there’s something in all of us that wants to connect to another person. In everything you write or say, try to establish some points of human connection. Nobody wants to listen to or read a robot.

Here are some ways to establish human connection with your audience:

Tell a story that’s on point.

Identify a shared experience.

Talk about the emotional impact an issue has on you, others, or your listeners.

Use words that express how an issue makes people feel.

Ask a question.

Use humour (ever notice how funny things get shared?)

Offer examples that show that you understand how a subject impacts their world.

People connect to people. And even if you are writing about ideas, a human connection moves people at an emotional level. And when people are moved emotionally, they are far more likely to act.

Those are 5 characteristics that, once understood, can help you polish your content to better connect with the people you’re trying to reach.

What else have you seen that makes you click, lean in or read more?


  1. Dan Black on February 24, 2014 at 11:03 pm

    I’m really working on being more creative about the blog titles I use. Great tips in this post.

  2. 5 Ways To Make Your Content Compelling, Clickab... on February 18, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    […] What makes you click? Or read? Or listen? Or, better yet, share a message with your friends? Ever wonder that? Me too. Whether you're writing a message  […]

  3. Jamie Easthom on February 18, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    As someone just starting a blog (focusing on, among other things, fair trade and sustainability), I cannot overstate how very helpful articles like this are. Thank you for writing

  4. Josh Collins on February 17, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    Great stuff here Carey! As always I can count on you helping me to see something I’m missing or be reminded of something I’ve lost touch with!

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