The Psychology of Social Media Sharing: How You Can Use It To Boost Your Content

[republish] The Psychology of Social Media Sharing: How You Can Use It To Boost Your Content Why do people share on social media? How do you get people to engage with your brand? Psychology says it’s not as complicated as you think.

Why Should You Care About Social Sharing?

In a fascinating study conducted by The New York Times Insider Group, it was discovered that there are five key reasons people share with others. This study uncovers an opportunity for marketers who want to grow their audience. By understanding why people share, you can look into your own content and see its ability to sustain blog traffic and growth. So, we’re showing you why people share on social media. Then we’re showing you the social media sharing best practices this study uncovered.

Spoiler Alert: It’s All About Relationships

I’ve probably said it a million times – 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. So let’s take a look at what this study found.

The 5 Key Reasons Why People Share (According to Psychology)

  1. To bring value 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

Social Sharing Personas

The New York Times study also stated that there are different personas of sharers. These six are broken up into their personalities and why they chose to share content.
  • Altruists: People who share content that will benefit others
    • “I share to enrich the lives of those around me”
  • Boomerangs: People who share content to be perceived a certain way and to get a reaction
    • “I try to share information that will reinforce the image I’d like to present.”
  • Careerists: People who share content related to their professional niche
    • “I share content related to my industry if I think other professionals will find it interesting too.”
  • Connectors: People who share content that helps them connect with others
    • “ I like the conversations my shares produce. If it doesn’t have that connection, it’s not worth sharing.”
  • Hipsters: People who identify with sharing and consider it a part of their personality
    • “Sharing is part of who I am.”
  • Selectives: People who selectively choose who they share relevant content to
    • “I like letting people know I’m thinking about them, so I share content I think they, specifically, will appreciate.”

5 Real Ways You Can Apply These Values To Your Content

This information means nothing if you can’t put it into action. So here are the social media sharing best practices this study helped marketers uncover. Here are five real ways you can influence people to share your content.

1. Write Valuable Content

Readers share content they know, like, and trust. Ask yourself, “What are my readers really getting in exchange for their time spent consuming my content?” Make sure your content is worth their time. Recommended Reading: Want To Make Your Blog Stand Out? Use The Blue Ocean Strategy Here are some options you might consider when writing your next blog post:
  • Make your content more practical and actionable for your readers. Readers love putting advice into action.
  • Continually supply your readers with new and unique content that has never been “done” before.
  • Make sure your content can provide more value than the next best post on the subject. (See the skyscraper technique)
  • Try to compete with everything else that your readers are doing when consuming your content.
  • Realize that good content comes with a high entertainment factor and use videos or infographics
Remember, people share content that provides them with value. Keep going the extra mile, and you’ll be creating top tier content in no time. They won’t be able to resist pressing that share button.

2. Help Readers Define Themselves

I’ll pick a physical book over a digital one any day of the week. There’s something about being able to see physical books sitting on my shelf and being able to connect with them that helps me define a part of myself. Similarly, people will choose content that helps them define who they are. If you want readers to share your content over other content, make sure they can identify with it. In order to do this, you should write content that focuses on what your readers relate to. Take this quiz by the Data and Marketing Association as an example. Marketer type quiz Not only do they allow marketers to identify with their content, but they also give them images related to their results that they can post and share on social media. This is a great way to make sure your audience feels connected to your content.

3. Connect Your Readers to Others

Your readers have an instinctual need to connect with others. If you want your audience to engage with your brand, give them a reason to use your content to connect with others. At the end of your posts, try asking your readers a question and encourage them to write their answer in the comments section. Take a look at Nike's Instagram post. They tell an amazing story and then ask their audience, “How do you challenge stereotypes?” By doing this, they’re giving their audience a space to discuss not only this story, but also stories of their own.Nike on Instagram Another option is to occasionally hit on the controversial post. For example, this post about the 13 misconceptions in content marketing kicked up quite a stir in our comments section and in social media. Overall, this is a good thing and helps people connect with others.

4. Make It Easier For Your Readers To Feel Valuable

In the New York Times Study, one woman stated 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 means that your content has the potential to help your readers share valuable information and allow them to look like a subject matter expert in front of their peers. Make it convenient for them to share this valuable content by adding plugins to your blog posts that allows them to quickly share it. Click to Tweet plugin Click-to-Tweet plugins like ones on WordPress, or TweetMe for Joomla Extension, allows users to quickly send out valuable information to their followers.

5. Play On Your Readers’ Emotions To Get The Word Out About Your Brand

Readers share content that they care about. If you want people to share your content and engage with your brand, try aligning your content with a worthy cause or something that plays on their emotions. For example, take a look at this post shared by an individual on Facebook. They shared an album from Salmon Animal Shelter's page, and encouraged their friends to make a donation. Salmon animal shelter There you have it. Now you know why people share on social media and the social media sharing best practices you can actually adopt and use in your content. Of course, all of this boils down to just creating great content that resonates with your audience, and making it easy for them to share and interact with your brand. Recommended Reading: 50 Social Media Best Practices Every Business Should Follow

Do You Want To Learn More About Social Media Strategy?

Check out Actionable Marketing Institute’s Social Media Strategy Certification course! With AMI’s course, you will learn how to take the knowledge acquired from this blog post and put it into action. You’ll get tutorials, templates, & other exclusive content that will help you document a social strategy that is 10x more effective at generating results. Actionable Marketing Institute social media strategy courseLearn more about AMI’s Social Media Strategy Certification today.
About the Author

Mackenzie Wutzke is currently a marketing generalist at Dakota Fence Company. She is also a former content specialist at CoSchedule. Mackenzie attended Minnesota State University Moorhead and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in public relations. In her free time, she enjoys listening to true crime podcasts, baking, and composing new songs on her ukulele.