13 Ways Consumers Share On Facebook

Sharing on Facebook

As an industry, social marketers tend to oversimplify social sharing and group it into large, catch-all buckets–Facebook posts, tweets, pins, etc. These oversimplifications, though, leave useful insights on the table. It’s one thing to know that a new product was shared 400 times on Facebook, but it’s completely different and far more beneficial to learn the specifics of how it was shared. For example, a brand can learn a lot about their customers if they can know that the new product was shared 300 times in one-to-one messages, shared 75 times to specific friends’ timelines, and only 25 times as regular status posts.

One of the many benefits of social is the massive amounts of data it offers marketers. Why not use it to its greatest potential?

To highlight how intricate social sharing can be, lets look at Facebook to see just how many ways sharing can happen.

Earned Shares:

1) Social sharing icons on the brand’s website. It seems like just about every website today has social sharing icons, from publishers to ecommerce websites. They’re easy to use and include an image, brand-written copy, a link to the page, and leave a space for the sharer to add their own message.

Social Share Icons

2) Copy-and-pasting a link as a status. Similar to the social sharing icons, customers can share website pages by copying the URL and pasting it as a status. We’ve actually found that this is a far more common behavior than sharing via the social icons. Facebook also automatically pulls an image, title, and description.

Social Share Links

3) Copy-and-pasting a link on a friend’s timeline. This is similar to the previous sharing method, but instead of broadcasting the content to a person’s entire network (or whoever Facebook decides should see it), it’s sent straight to a single person. Of course, Facebook can also show this interaction on other friends’ feeds, too, if they deem it worthy. The chances of that one person converting (doing any action on the linked site such as a sign-up, purchase, or add to wish list) is high, but the reach is much more limited.

Social Link Timeline

4) Copy-and-pasting a link in a message to a friend. This type of sharing is the most private. It’s shared only between the people and won’t show up in anybody’s feed. High conversion rates, but the most limited reach.

5) Clicking the share button on another person’s post. When a person shares content as their status (e.g. types #1 and #2), anyone who sees it has the option to like, comment, or share that post. The share button is how we get the “Jane Doe via John Doe” posts.


6) Physically showing a friend the device (still can’t track, unfortunately). The last type of earned sharing might actually be the most natural form of sharing. During the ALS ice bucket challenge craze, did you ever pass your phone to a co-worker to show them your friend getting ice dumped on their head? That’s this type of sharing, and if you think about your own experience, it happens all the time. While that type of sharing is hard to measure, it often turns into a “can you send me the link to that?” situation.

Sharing Owned Posts

(Note: Facebook lumps this sharing into its “viral” category; we like to think of it as ‘amplification of owned’, as it is more descriptive of what is actually happening):

7) Clicking “share” on a brand’s owned post. This is similar to earned sharing. The only difference is that the shared content originated on the brand’s social channel. The viewability of this type of sharing depends on Facebook’s feed algorithm. This will also get a “______ via ” label.

Social Share Owned

8) Commenting on a brand’s owned post. This is another way for a brand’s owned post to gain reach. When a friend comments on a brand’s post, Facebook’s algorithm can sometimes consider it worthy to show on the feed, although it seems to be less favorable than the share button.

9) Writing a friend’s name on a brand post (super popular!). Tagging (typing the name of a person) friends on a post is a really easy, low effort, and therefore, common way of sharing. All a person has to do is tag a friend on a brand’s post. Unlike a comment without tags, the recipient will be notified that they’ve been tagged in a comment, guiding them to the post. It’s quick, easy, and highly targeted.

Social Tag Owned

10) Liking a brand’s owned post. Same as #8, but liking instead of commenting. Again, viewability is up to the algorithm and seems to be less likely to show up in a person’s feed than the “share” option.

Sharing Paid Posts:

These three ways to share a paid post are similar to the ways people can share an owned post. The posts maintain their “sponsored” tags, but they do gain a “Jane Doe liked this” or a “John Doe commented on this” endorsement that acts as social proof, which is pretty powerful.

11) Clicking “share” on a brand’s paid post.

12) Commenting on a brand’s paid post.

13) Liking a brand’s paid post.

As you can see, there’s a lot of ways content gets shared on Facebook. Additionally, Facebook is always testing and adding new features, as well as tweaking the algorithm to hopefully show users better content. It’s tough to keep up with all the changes, let alone all the ways sharing can happen, but if you can (and we’ll help you!) there’s so much valuable information to be learned.

Are you thinking about (and tracking) all the ways social sharing can happen?