What Inspires Others to Share Our Content?

Social Sharing

Whether you’re about to ramp up your inbound marketing tactics, or you’re already deep in the thick of your content strategy, you probably know the value of users sharing the content that you produce and promote. Shared content is one of the best ways to increase brand awareness and customer engagement, but is there a science behind what drives people to share online?

We recently wrote about the types of content that people love to share and types of viral content, but we mostly discussed why the formats themselves lend easily to sharing. We didn’t really dive deeply into the psychology of sharing and why people choose to interact with one piece of content over another.

It seems like a tricky subject to understand. The consumer landscape is constantly changing and growing, with buyers and online readers being fickle and diverse. But when we start to understand the psychology behind social shares and what drives people to interact, then we can better create the content that people do want to share with others.

Why do we share?

To put it simply, we, as members of online communities, share posts because we want others to see them.

We want others to see posts for several different reasons, but in large part because those specific pieces of content create reactions within us, and we’re hoping for it to instill the same reaction in others.

We share posts that are especially positive, funny, uplifting, relatable, inspirational, give us hope, or excite us.

This can be the reason tone and language are so important for written content. Negative, derogatory, or bitter attitudes in writing do of course get shares, but often for the wrong reasons.

To avoid creating content that becomes the fodder for the next big meme or subject of internet ridicule (or simply gets passed over), consider the emotions that people will feel when reading or looking at your content. More importantly, is to determine if that emotion is one that people want to help affect in their own friends and followers.

You want your content to make readers feel good or respond positively. Even when creating a ‘negative’ piece of content, like ’10 mistakes you are making about X,’ the tone and language itself can be positive in its helpful information and support of progress. Instead of scolding a reader who may be making one of the ‘mistakes’ that you outline, try instead to utilize humor, or tell a story in which the reader can relate to.

We share to give insight into our own lives.

People also share content to give others insight on their personal thoughts,feelings, and opinions. This acts as a way for people to give a better sense of who they are as individuals.

When we create content that shows our brands’ personality, when we give writing a conversational voice, and when we use that voice to not only provide information, but give unique opinions, then we create more compelling content.

If our content helps a person form their own opinion, or make more informed decisions, they can feel motivated to share that content so that others may have a similar benefit.

People tend to bond together over like opinions and sentiments. Shared content makes for an easy way to engage within a community that possesses similar views, or seek out connections with those who are like-minded.

Say you want to create an infographic about what you consider to be the ‘worst’ types of marketers. It’s a chance to not only be funny, entertaining, self-deprecating, or showcasing your opinion, but you create something that can be relatable to others. Fun or opinionated types of content can make others say ‘I’ve experienced that,’ ‘that’s so true!’ or ‘I totally agree’ which are all compelling reasons to share with others.

Even if there are audience members who don’t agree with the opinions in your content, there are still emotions and responses that are evoked, which shouldn’t be discounted. The greatest thing about discussion and sharing is that many different viewpoints make the experience more whole and valid. Negative comments or disagreements to your content can open up opportunities to respond and interact with all parts of your audience, or further prove to your supporters of your convictions and values.

When consumers identify people or businesses who have opinions which they respect and relate to, they also are more regularly interested in the content that that person or business produces or shares.

We share content that is insightful and observational.

One of the greatest psychological reasons that content is shared, is that content can make us feel more connected to others in the world, or to current events. As we discussed in our post on formatting your blog, content can be used as a way to join a large conversation of timely events and discussions and engage your readers. These posts are often shared because of the nature in which they can contribute to that overall conversation.

It is often a highly emotional event that brings people together. The types of subject matter associated with highly emotional events can sometimes be seen as too sensitive for businesses to touch.

But they also can be an opportunity to show compassion and sympathy, or joy and celebration.

Often these emotions are not associated with a company or business. In creating content that is real to the sentiment of a human audience, you have the opportunity to create something that readers identify with and feel connected to on a deeper psychological level.

Many companies who promoted content celebrating the landmark decision to legalize gay marriage across the country saw huge support from consumers who shared the same views. While previously it may have been strategically better to stay neutral on topics of politics, religion, gender, or diversity, in the 21st century it is quite common and appreciated for businesses to now connect with their customers through commentary on certain issues.

When users feel that deeper psychological connection, there is also a greater chance of converting that person into a brand advocate, or someone who consistently shares your content. People may initially make purchases based on price or convenience, but they will advocate for a brand based on shared values and interests.

We share to connect with our friends.

One of the universal uses for Facebook is to keep tabs on friends who we don’t necessarily see or keep in touch with on a regular basis. Social media allows us to post updates on what we’re doing, where we’re going, and who we’re with. But since Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have evolved into much more than status updates, shareable content has taken up major residence.

Content that is personal, personable, and niche is often shared as an extension of a person’s self on social media. In an age when pouring your heart out through a Facebook post can be unseemly, we often let content do the talking for us.

Companies often strive to create content that is inclusive. Broad enough to appeal to many, but not be too generic. By creating content that is even more exclusive or personalized, we increase the likelihood of making a stronger connection with a reader, who will then share that content as piece of their thoughts or feelings with friends.

Consider a post about the struggles of being an entrepreneur. While not all of us are entrepreneurs, many can identify with specific feelings within that subject. You can focus on a certain aspect, like the difficulty of having your voice heard. While a person may not necessarily write for the world to see that they feel they are struggling to be heard, sharing a piece of content that is personal to them, can provide a relatable update to friends about what they are feeling at the moment.

The psychology behind social sharing comes down to creating the type of content that we want others to see.

We respond to content that stirs specific emotions within us, and we share that content to share that emotion. We use content to identify with others on particular values and opinions, to share with others some insight on ourselves, and to connect with the world and what goes on in it. You can use that psychology in your marketing efforts to create content that incites that emotional reaction from readers, and develop a community of users who actively and happily share your content.