7 Social Media Mistakes That Can Keep Your Content from Going Viral

social media spread

Social media marketing may not be rocket science, but there is still a large science component to it. If you want your content to spread, you have to look at the numbers and stop making gut decisions.

Over the last five years, I’ve learned how to push content through social media so that it spreads virally. More importantly, I’ve learned what not to do.

So, if you want to ensure that your content spreads, avoid the following 7 mistakes:

Mistake #1: Timing doesn’t matter

You can’t write content, publish it in the middle of the night and expect it to spread virally. Social sites like Twitter and Facebook have peak usage times. If you can submit your content to those sites during the ideal days and times, it will be more likely to spread.

Fourty-eight percent of Twitter users are on Eastern Standard Time, and they are most likely to retweet on Wednesdays, around 5 PM. Links on Twitter tend to get clicked on the most within the first hour of them being posted.

So, if you want to share something on Twitter, tweet it on Wednesday at 5 PM EST.

If you want to share something on Facebook and get the most number of likes, don’t post more frequently than once every two days. Also, to get the most likes, post on Saturday at noon EST.

Mistake #2: All social buttons are the same

On Quick Sprout, I tested the placement of social media buttons at the top and bottom of my blog posts. Surprisingly, people have a tendency to share posts before they read them as the social media buttons at the top of the post got 117% more clicks than the ones at the bottom.

In addition to that, I tried using scrolling social buttons such as the Sharebar, which got 226% more clicks than the social media buttons at the top of the post.

When I tested the combination of the scrolling social buttons with social buttons at the top, it underperformed by 29% compared to scrolling buttons in combination with buttons at the bottom.

If you want to get the most social shares, consider placing social media buttons at the bottom of your blog post in combination with scrolling social buttons like the Sharebar.

Mistake #3: Shares matter, not traffic

Most bloggers and content marketers focus on how many likes their content gets on Facebook or how many tweets they get on Twitter. In theory, if you have more shares, you should get more traffic, but that isn’t always the case. If no one clicks through from Facebook or Twitter to your website, you won’t get any visitors.

Instead of just focusing on the pure number of social shares, you should also be looking at traffic. A good way to boost your traffic from these social sites is to analyze your click-through rate.

According to this blog post by Dan Zarrella, the optimum place to leave a link on Twitter is right at the 25% mark. So, not at the beginning, end or middle: make sure you add it right on the 25% mark if you want to boost your Twitter traffic.

Mistake #4: People read content during the same peak times they share it

There is a huge timing difference between when people prefer to read content and when they share it. From Mistake #1, you know people prefer Wednesday for Twitter and Saturday for Facebook.

People prefer to read blogs on Monday at 11 AM EST. They prefer commenting on blogs at 9 AM EST on Saturday.

If you are also targeting a female audience for your blog, never post during evening or night because women prefer to read blog posts before noon EST.

Mistake #5: Focusing on all social channels

I talked about placement of social media buttons earlier, but I didn’t talk about the number of social sites you should promote. On Quick Sprout, I tested placing buttons for 3, 4 and 5 different social media sites. No matter how many social media buttons I used, fewer than 9% of people clicked on more than one social button.

There was a huge difference, however, in how many people clicked on the social media buttons when there were 3 buttons versus 5. Although there were fewer options when I just placed 3 buttons, there was an increase in click-throughs by 11%. As for click-through percentage difference between 4 buttons and 3, there wasn’t statistical significance between the two.

People have a tendency to only share your content on one social site, so ideally you shouldn’t have more than 3 social media buttons. If you have over 50,000 monthly visitors, consider placing 4 social buttons.

Mistake #6: Tweeting your content once

Even if you tweet during optimal days and times, it doesn’t mean that everyone is going to see your tweet. Although 82% of Twitter users have less than 350 followers, 18% still have more than that. And just because that 18% number is small, you shouldn’t ignore it as Twitter has over 500 million users.

Out of all of your followers, the ones who also follow thousands of other people probably won’t see most of your tweets. And if they don’t see your tweets, they won’t be able to retweet them or click through over to your website.

According to a test Mark Suster ran, you should consider tweeting your blog posts at least twice. He got an extra 56% more visitors from Twitter by just tweeting a blog post again. You can also tweet your content 3 or even 4 times, but the more you tweet the same post, the less clicks each one will receive as many of your followers would have already seen it.

Mistake #7: Slow and steady wins the race

In the social media world, it is all about speed. The more shares your content gets within a short period of time, the better off you are – especially on Facebook.

Facebook takes momentum into account, so if your content is gaining a ton of likes at a quick pace, more people are going to see it within their feeds.

I did a quick test in which I bought 50 likes within the first 30 minutes to one content piece, and I bought 50 likes spread over 8 hours to the second content piece. Both of the content pieces were the same, but the one that got 50 likes within the first hour ended up with a total of 142 likes and 10 comments. The second variation ended up with 95 likes and 7 comments.

If you want your content to spread on the social web, you need to get a lot of shares within a very short period of time.


If you avoid the 7 social media mistakes above, your content will more likely flourish and spread. When you decide to leverage the above tips, however, don’t just assume they are going to work for you. Make sure you test them with your content. Depending on where most of your website visitors live and the demographics of your audience, the results may be different for you.

What other social media mistakes should you avoid?