The holy grail of social media is not “Likes” or follows, but shares.

And retweets, too.

After all, a “Like” or follow is specific to one person. A share or retweet gets you exposed to even more people.

How many? Well, if you consider that the average Facebook user has more than 245 friends (according to a recent Pew Research Center study), then sharing can help you reach as many as 31,170 people. That’s a lot of new prospects.

So how do you create content that people will share? Here are 6 tips:

1. Make it helpful. People love to be seen as a resource for their friends. If you can provide tips and information that will help them do that (even if it’s as simple as tips for managing the stress of the holidays, ways to be a better party host, or great parking locations near your place of business), then they will pass it along to their own networks.

2. Create a connection. Post content that will get people to form a more personal connection with your business or organization. A New York Times study last year showed that 84% of people say they share content that allows them to be supportive of causes. So why not show off your business’ charitable efforts?

Hello Bully, a Pittsburgh-based organization that seeks to rescue, rehabilitate, and repair the reputation of the American Pit Bull Terrier, has a built-in advantage given that so many people love dogs and pets. So it capitalizes on that by posting news about and photos of dogs, and it watches as that content gets spread far and wide, even beyond the Pittsburgh city limits.

Sharing this content lets supporters share their love of dogs with others and promote the organization’s cause at the same time.

3. Entertain. No one wants to watch or share boring content. Get people to laugh or smile (like the clips you often see being passed around from the late-night talk shows or Saturday Night Live) and you’ll see your content spread more easily.

4. Get people talking. One of the best ways to get people to share your content is to ask questions. When you do that on Facebook and someone posts a reply, it’ll show up in that fan’s Timeline that he or she commented on your Page or answered your question. And chances are good that a tweeted reply will be seen by lots of other people too.

Remember: It’s called social media. The goal is to get people engaging and interacting — with you, and with each other.

5. Provide an incentive. If your content is a special deal, you can incent people to share it with their social networks. Just add a little something extra — an additional discount or gift certificate, for example — that sweetens the pot for your customers who pass it along.

6. Ask people to share. It’s often as simple as this: Sometimes, people need to be told what to do. When you say “Please share this,” your fans often will. For example, you can post a piece of content (a status message, article, or whatever) and tell your fans “Share this if you agree.”

The bottom line

When you ask any small business or organization what their biggest driver of new business is, the answer is almost always word of mouth referrals.

In the context of social media, sharing is really just word of mouth enabled through technology. All you have to do is provide content that people want to pass along, and tell them how to do so.

With that in mind, why not share this article? Click the share link for your favorite social network on the left side of this screen.

What content that you post gets shared most often? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.