The Science Behind Social Sharing

Published February 8, 2019
Last Updated February 12, 2019
Tillie Warder

As businesses, most of us have implemented some form of social media strategy. It’s a great tool for promotion, and an affordable strategy for marketing products and services. Since its launch, social media has become increasingly popular and so, has become over-populated. There’s a lot of noise out there and everyone’s competing for attention, so in a crowd, how exactly do you stand out?

One way of doing that, is getting your content to be shared. This spreads awareness about your brand and may lead to an increase in engagement and followers. This begs the question of what makes posts go viral? And what makes people want to share content with others?

In the UK alone 99% of 18-34 year olds are internet users, and globally, 3.5 billion people are using some form of social media. It’s a very crowded marketplace, but this does mean that there are millions of users out there waiting to share content they connect with.

As marketers, one of the goals we hope to achieve by marketing on social media is that people will discover and even share our posts, and in turn buy into our products and services. But in order to make shareable content, we need to understand why people share content in the first place.

Since it’s popularisation, there has been a lot of research into how people interact online, what drives them to share online content and what type of content gets shared the most.

Bryan Kramer, the author of ‘There is no B2B or B2C: It’s Human to Human #H2H’ applies the psychology of six emotions to social sharing. He argues that we are more likely to share a post if it makes us feel fear, anger, sadness, disgust, joy or surprise – we want to see if others would feel that too.

Other primary motivators for sharing social content is validation and self-actualisation. Social media users often seek validation of their opinion from other members of the online community. Sites (like Facebook and Twitter) which display the ‘like’ and ‘retweet’ buttons help those kind of users to seek instant validation. This need for validation plays an important role in content sharing.

Self-actualisation is grounded within our basic human needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs argues that as humans, we are hardwired to self-actualise. Meaning we continually need to be at our very best and fulfil our potential in order to be fulfilled and satisfied.

Social media can act as aid for self-actualisation. People often share content that connects or aligns with the very best version of themselves.

Understanding the psychological reasons why people interact on social media and why they are more likely to share certain types of content can be used to create content that engages your audience.

Whilst acknowledging this is a step to making the most out of your social media strategy, there are also other elements you can implement to focus on your long-term social media goal.

The magic of sideways marketing

This concept is a way of communicating a story to your audience instead of simply promoting a product or service. You need to completely understand who you’re marketing to and what their real needs are. By choosing a narrative that isn’t about selling products or services, but instead is about larger, relevant topics that inform and engage your audience.

For example, the recent Gillette advert wasn’t about selling razors and product placement – it had a deeper meaning. They discussed current issues and lifestyle topics that sent their video viral, with thousands of users debating over its message.

Sideways marketing often gets brands in the spotlight, and reinforces their brand messaging and goals. This combination can often act as a catalyst for an increase in engagement, followers and even sales.

Bite size content: less words, more attention

Research has shown the majority of people get distracted within 8 seconds, although in some cases, it only takes 2.8 seconds for others. 81% of people only skim the content they read online. Meaning if something doesn’t immediately catch their eye, they’ll keep scrolling. It also means that many users prefer to digest their content in bite size chunks.

Social media can make it easier for accounts to quickly read the highlights and engage with others without having to read masses of content.

This means, now more than ever, it’s important to make an immediate statement and grab your audience’s attention.

One way of doing this is to craft the perfect, attention-grabbing headline. Another is striking visuals. This can be something that will automatically evoke emotion in your audience.

Build relationships, not followers

Nowadays many marketers believe their sole goal on social media is to gain as many followers as possible. We often forget social media’s true purpose. Creating a network of strong relationships can be more effective than gaining thousands of inactive followers in a short amount of time. Building reliable, loyal relationships does take time, but can provide high engagement and interaction.

Create content worth reading

This piece of advice is the oldest in the book, and people throw it around left, right and centre without really explaining how to do it.

It’s simple really: know your audience, know what they like, what they’re reading and what they’re not. Create your content to reflect that.

Read-worthy content partnered with a continual effort to build relationships will serve you better in the long run.

Understanding the basics of shareable content and knowing that social media success isn’t just about building up a list of followers, makes it easier to shape your strategy.

In the end we are social beings and crave human connection. Build your social relationships with information, and simply create content to serve your audience.

What are your thoughts? Let us know by tweeting us here, or contact us here!



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