What is a signal boost? And why is it important?

Featured image by Alan Levine, “Dad’s Radio

Let me get the quick, raw definition out of the way first.

“Signal boosting” is a term that refers to the sharing of content on social media that may or may not have a relation to your posted content. For example, a friend of mine posts a Patreon for her potato-based blog, which is full of guides pertaining to potatoes and potato by-products. She is trying to obtain subscribers so that she can continue posting her potato-based content while supporting her blog. While I may not necessarily post about potatoes on a regular frequency, I will share her post because I want my followers to see her Patreon and support her potato-based dreams. That act of sharing something so that others may see it is called signal boosting.

Now, why is signal boosting important? Obviously, if it’s a good cause, you would want to make sure people and your followers would see it. If it’s an important time-sensitive post, that urgency is even more pronounced. But let’s think of things a little bit more selfishly, just briefly.

Human beings are naturally prone to reciprocity. We like giving back when someone helps us. For the beginning blogger, sharing content is a way for you to get attention from the original posters of that content and potentially have them share back. Obviously, this doesn’t work for major brands, but it does work for smaller blogs.

We also like people who can give. Ultimately, it’s a show of power – if someone has something to give away, then they have the resources to do so. We also recognize the moral goodness of people who can give, and like them better because of it.

The interesting part of this is that it’s definitely advertising – that doesn’t cost cold hard “paid” money, but time and space. It’s non-traditional marketing that’s a product of how many social media sites work now (one source of content, many followers). And it can be easily manipulated to gain followers for your blog, with a bit of consideration and time. But how do you so do?

That part’s pretty easy. You rewrap the package.

I could easily share my friend’s post on my page, as a whole, linking to her page and content. That’s cool. It maximizes the exposure for my friend, but it doesn’t do too much for me if someone shares it, because my name won’t be associated with any reposts that my followers would make – they’ll share my friend’s post, but my name won’t be attached to it.

In order to effectively signal boost in a way that maximizes your exposure, you need to have your name associated with it. In this case, I could interview my friend in regards to her potato blog, linking to the Patreon in the post. I could ask her why she’s so damn passionate about potatoes. I thereby rewrap the content and place my name on it – when people share the interview, they’ll be sharing both her Patreon and my blog content. There are many different ways to rewrap.

Another, more roundabout example I have is less virtuous, but an example of how rewrapping of your content by your followers can help signal boost your content. I’m a huge fan of Fall Out Boy. I love their music. I’m very tone deaf, but I enjoy speeding up vinyl records to increase the tempo and create a unique sound. (For those of you unfamiliar – records are typically played at a certain speed, around 33 rpm. Most record players can play the physical record faster than that, creating a unique sound. As a result of doing this, I have been called “a disgrace to an entire art form,” and I agree.)

As a result of tweaking certain aspects of their music, I created tracks that I liked, and I uploaded them onto Soundcloud under fair use terms. I’ll post them below when I have access to a computer. I forgot about them. Over a year later, I noticed a large increase in my activity.

One of those tracks has been played, as of this writing, over 18,000 times. That’s more than a lot of traditional artists on Soundcloud for their individual tracks. You may wonder where I’m going with this. How does this benefit anyone else but me? I’m the one getting all these views. But it does benefit the original artist, because now their work is being shared and talked about. I’m not making a profit off the individual track, but people might find out about that artist and track down the originals, and I’m certain that out of all those plays, there’s at least one person who hasn’t heard the beautiful, melodic ambrosia that is Patrick Stump’s voice before.

EDIT: Top one is me, bottom one is an original song off the same album I pull ed the track from.

Fanart, remixes, and other forms of “rewrap” are free advertising for you and your brand. They signal boost your content and bring more people to the originals.

Do you all have any ideas on how to effectively signal boost? Do you disagree with anything I have to say? Let me know in the comments, or post a response.


3 thoughts on “What is a signal boost? And why is it important?

  1. This is really well written. And you show an impressively in depth understanding of human psychology in your analysis of why people signal boost. I’m a blogging newbie myself, to be honest I’ve never even heard of signal boosting but I’ll have to give it a try. Thanks for explaining it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!

      It’s really good for websites with decent tagging systems and exponential growth (one person has a lot of followers who can share the original post) so WordPress… may not be the best venue. Twitter/Tumblr have the best formats for that in my opinion.


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