Tip of the Week: Psychology of Facebook Sharing

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Sharing is caring – For ourselves and for others

Previously, we covered some psychological explanations as to why people ‘like’ content on Facebook. This week, we venture deeper into what compels us to click the ‘share’ button!

Screenshot of a Thought Catalog post –  4.3K shares and counting. 

Why do we share?

We actually share more frequently than we think – on average, 2.5 million pieces of content per minute. Perhaps that’s because almost any piece of content we see on the net these days has a share function. Want to announce to the whole world how emotional you are? Share that Thought Catalog post. Maybe, someone’s status update reflects exactly what you are thinking; sharing it would have been easier than typing it yourself. 

As we all know, sharing is a quick way of curating information and expressing our thoughts, without the hassle of creating our own content. Unlike ‘likes’, ‘shares’ are a more committed interaction on Facebook, due to its permanence on our profiles or pages. A survey done by the New York Times even discovered that people who shared a post tend to process its content more thoroughly and deeply; an indication to a higher retention rate on individuals themselves. 

However, this very same stickiness is the reason why users find it harder to commit to sharing. Despite the statistics above, only 10% of total interactions on Facebook comprise of ‘shares’. And on average, only one in every 200 people are likely to share a piece of content. Majority of what we come across on our feed don’t get shared because we heavily censor and analyse its potential impact on our image. (After all, those things are going to show up on our wall.) Will people think that you are weird if you share this? If you think they do, you would probably stop yourself from sharing.

So, give yourself a pat on the back if any of your content has ever been shared; it’s a tough crowd out there. But what convinces a user to share certain content against so many others ? Here are some reasons.

Screenshot of a viral Chinese post on a Winnie-the-Pooh shaped cloud in England. 

1. It’s entertaining

Though the answer might seem like a ‘duh’, it’s true. People are more likely to share content that is entertaining. But not just entertaining to you alone – In the same NY Times study, 49% of those surveyed cited that they shared content when they believed it would bring value and entertain others. Beyond personal satisfaction, we are compelled to share, so as to spread the word and inform those around us. Being in the know alone isn’t as fun as having people around who are equally excited. Sharing helps us connect to others, create conversations and hopefully change opinions and behaviour.

Example of contradicting, high emotional arousal content. 

How does this apply to marketers? 

People like sharing entertaining stuff? Easy to grasp. But figuring out what’s entertaining is another story. Some pointers to follow include:

– Incorporating content that is able to evoke emotions or introduce people to fresh concepts.

– Bringing in information that is novel, exclusive or surprising. Something audiences have never seen or heard before.

– Even if you don’t have anything remotely groundbreaking, the way you spin your content affects its shareability too. Posts that challenge the status quo such as taking on contradictory (but valid) arguments, deconstructing myths, organising order in messy subjects, tend to pique an audience’s interest.

– If you are going for a tug on the heartstrings, focus your content on generating emotions with high arousal (Anger, Fear, Laughter, Surprise) over low arousal responses like contentment and sadness.

2. It speaks a lot about their personality

If liking something is comparable to a murmur of agreement, sharing would be the equivalent of a shoutout about who and what we are. Another reason why people ‘share’ information is because the content relates a lot to us, and is able to help us establish our sense of identity. But more accurately, its not always about showing who we really are in person, but what we want people to see of us. For example, sharing a music video of an obscure band on Facebook might be an effort on your part to look cultured in your music taste. (Even if you didn’t really like the sound of it that much.)

Interestingly enough, our personality also influences our sharing habits. Using Big 5 Personality traits, psychologists discovered a pattern between these personal characteristics and the the types of shared content. For instance, people high in extraversion (talkative, sociable) were more likely to share content about social activities, whilst those with high openness to experience (intellectual, creative) tended to share more informative posts.

A quiz that ties in with your branding is a great way to engage users. 

How does this apply to marketers? 

As mentioned in our first post, it is all about the user when it comes to social media. Focus more on your readers than your brand, by:

– Segmenting your market, and coming up with a consumer profile. Knowing what type of users your brand wants to attract, what personality traits do they have in common can help to shape content that will most likely appeal to them.

– Users also differ from region as well. Take note of cultural differences in sharing habits, and accommodate posting frequency or content to suit different countries. In fact, Facebook users in Asia are more likely to share information than their European counterparts.

– Create content that is relatable. Refrain from talking too much about the brand; Instead, how can your posts benefit the user? How does it help the user understand more about themselves? Or perhaps, how does your content enable the user to connect with other users as well?

3. It helps them maintain relationships

Not only is this article a point of interest for the user, but it also applies the user’s other half. 

The ‘share’ button is called that for a reason. We are more than just ourselves, and interactions with other people is a part of what makes us human. Any content that is a chance for us to spread good will and positive feelings to those we care about are more likely to be shared. Similar to annual christmas cards or the obligatory goodnight message, the act of sharing on Facebook is a form of relational maintenance. When people are tagged to a shared post, it lets them know that the sharer is thinking of them, and is making an effort to communicate. Sharing provides the user an opportunity to create conversation and connect with those that may not be physically or emotionally close.

A Seinfeld trivia quiz may be a fun activity for those interested in the TV show! 

How does this apply to marketers? 

Beyond focusing on what the brand can provide users, marketers can facilitate relationships and increase sharing by:

– Thinking beyond the singular. Produce content that not only affects the individual, but has the potential to involve other parties as well.

– Appeal to your consumer’s motivation to connect with people – Introduce posts or information about activities that users can do with their friends. Or, verbally include a call to action in your messages urging viewers to interact with their friends (e.g. tagging).

– Carry out campaigns that encourage group bonding and feelings of camaraderie within users.

Written by: (www.script.com.sg) 

Edited & Illustrated by: Script Consultants Pte Ltd


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