The Psychology of Social Media Sharing

Viktor Kis

Social media sharing is at an all-time high in 2014. More than 5 million photos are uploaded to Instagram every 24 hours. If that fact isn’t mind-blowing enough for you, just think about how many times you (or your children) check their Facebook (23% of users do it more than 5 times a day) or snap a shot with their phones before even touching their meal (“share then enjoy”).

Where does this urge for sharing our experiences come from? Proving ourselves to our peers has been important since the dawn of time, as communities were formed and roles were selected for survival. In today’s society, where survival is of less concern than “dunking in the dark”, this vehicle of nurturing relationships and ourselves is thriving. Sharing has quickly grown from pigeon mail to email, from post-its to Facebook posts, and has accelerated to an incredible pace opening up channels like Snapchat and Whisper.

social media sharing

The psychology of social media sharing

It is instinctual to yearn to succeed. Part of success as we see it is being the source of information that proves to be useful to our peers. We share content on social media for many reasons, one of them is to be validated as a thought leader or just a person “in the know.” Sharing posts will help to establish ourselves on the societal ladder and gain (or lose) credibility and position. This leads to us becoming Information DJ-s – selecting who to share with and what to share.

The true engine of sharing is deeply rooted within our brains. When deciding what to share and what to toss, one part of the imaginary brain model flashes with neon colors: this part is called the temporoparietal junction, or TPJ. When we are exposed to something we consider valuable, this part is activated and not only makes us feel like we are on top of the informational pyramid, it also serves as the engine for convincing others that this piece of information is truly interesting. The truth is, what we are interested in is actually less important to us than what we think others may find hip.

Social Proof

Another strong reason to share is to become a member of a group, to feel that you belong. Communities form online for a reason, our instinct for survival dictates that we gather peers and become stronger as a unit. Trust bonds are built and suddenly, we find ourselves looking out for the next post of that particular friend or page we liked, as they have consistently appeared trustworthy and popular. We dovetail their success with every share and reap the rewards the next day at work.

How and why do we share?

According to a study conducted by Latitude Research, when processing information (which we are flooded with) most of users actually find that reading other people’s responses helps them understand and process information and events. More often than not, we don’t just retweet / repost content, but add our own personal bit as well. We don’t just share, we go through the steps of:

Receiving – Combining – Mashing Up – Creating and Recreating – Redistributing

Now why do we do this? The purpose of all this activity is:

  • 94%: To bring valuable and entertaining content to others
  • 84%: To get the word out about causes or brands
  • 78%: To grow and nourish our relationships
  • 69%: Self-fulfillment
  • 68%: To define ourselves to others

Altogether, we share because we care. We don’t just want to appeal, but also help others and integrate. Remember, the TPJ is on high alert at all times looking for valuable content to be thrown at it. This can help you re-think your marketing campaign from the perspective of how to target the friends of my fans with messaging shaped to be shared, rather than consumed and left alone. Remember, one “Share” is worth a thousand Likes!

social media content

How to get people to share your content on social media

There is a strict rule of thumb to content these days: “share or delete.” This works on the whole content spectrum, from your latest speech at a conference, to the funny video of your embarrassing Karaoke night. If you don’t share it, might as well delete it as it won’t help you establish yourself as a successful business or a thought-leader in your industry.

To create content that people are going to find valuable and share-worthy, follow these simple rules and build your social success:

  • Gain their trust
  • Keep it simple
  • Be consistent
  • Appeal to their sense of humor
  • Help them connect with not only you, but their network

Don’t forget, although social media is top-of-mind, email is still the #1 way of sharing between people. It’s more private than social media, and people tend to share things of higher importance and higher value. Your email marketing efforts require the same amount of attention as your social media campaigns.

Twitter tiger? Facebook fiend? Let us know your thoughts in the comments on how you leverage sharing patterns and motivations!

Viktor Kis

Running projects during the day and reports at night (yeah we never sleep), Viktor is a Client Manager who fights it out with numbers to get clients the leads they’re looking for.

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