Why People Share: The Psychology of Social Sharing

We lately found this article on coschedule.com and though it’s business-focused, some lessons seem to be transferable to our sector. Below are the elements we suggest you have a look at and see how they resonate with your current practice on social media.

“People buy (and share content) from those that they know, like, and trust. Most sharing, as it turns out, is primarily dependent on the personal relationships of your readers. The data shows that the likelihood of your content being shared has more to do with your readers relationship to others than their relationship to you.

The most common reasons people share something with others are pretty surprising. Let’s look at the data.

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  1. To bring valuable and entertaining content to others.  49% say sharing allows them to inform others of products they care about and potentially change opinions or encourage action
  2. To define ourselves to others. 68% share to give people a better sense of who they are and what they care about
  3. To grow and nourish our relationships. 78% share information online because it lets them stay connected to people they may not otherwise stay in touch with
  4. Self-fulfillment. 69% share information because it allows them to feel more involved in the world
  5. To get the word out about causes or brands. 84% share because it is a way to support causes or issues they care about

It was also found that some users share as a act of “information management.” 73% of respondents said that they process information more deeply, thoroughly and thoughtfully when they share it.

As if that wasn’t enough, you also need to realize that good content comes with a high entertainment factor. Rather than a generic stock image, consider custom graphics or charts that present your content to readers in a brand new way. If you haven’t before, consider a video or infographic as a way to add more value, and more entertainment, to your content.

Connect Your Readers To Others

Your readers have an instinctual need to connect with others. Just look at the success of social networks like Facebook and Twitter. People like people.

In content marketing, the fabric of these connections is directly related to the content that we consume and share with our online network.

Here’s a small example: when is the last time that you left a comment on a post without sharing the post itself? Probably never. When we attach a conversation to a piece of content, we become very likely to share that content with others.

In addition, some readers will actually share their comment with a social share. The Facebook and Google+ commenting utilities (link) prove how closely these two things that are connected.

One way to do this is to try and end as many posts as possible with a question that our readers and can answer in the comments. While they don’t always do it, the question will often get them thinking and helps them apply.

Another option is to occasionally hit on the controversial post.  Overall, this is a good thing and helps people connect with others.

Make Them Feel More Valuable

In the New York Times study one respondent was quoted as saying that she enjoyed “getting comments that I sent great information and that my friends will forward it to their friends because it’s so helpful. It makes me feel valuable.”

This is pretty cool! Not only can your content help your readers become a subject matter expert in their field, but it can also help them look like one for their peers.