You’re browsing through Facebook, and you come across a funny cat video. You watch it all the way through and laugh a fair amount. Then, once the video is over, you’re faced with a choice: Do you move on and continue browsing Facebook? Or do you share this video with your friends? It seems like a fairly simple question, and it’s one you probably make several times a day on your own social media. But what determines the answer? What’s the difference between content that gets shared and content that doesn’t? If you can figure this out, you’ll have a tremendous advantage when it comes to social media marketing.
Sharing on social media is an essential aspect of marketing and one of the biggest factors in gaining exposure for your brand and content. So how can you encourage sharing on your page? High quality content is essential, of course. People are only going to share things they find interesting, funny, relevant, or otherwise worthwhile. But liking your content doesn’t guarantee someone will share it. You can always ask them to share it, but such requests get old quickly. If you’re constantly telling people to share your content, it’s more likely to annoy them than inspire them.
It appears, however, that there’s a psychological reason behind what we share and what we don’t. A study at UCLA has located the specific part of the brain that significantly impacts our decision to share content with others. The temperoporietal junction (TPJ) is closely connected with empathy and sympathy. And it’s the section that’s active when we’re sharing content. In other words, our decision to click “Share” is based not just on what we think of something, but on what we believe others will think of it.
This makes sense when you think about it. After all, why would you share something unless you think your friends/followers will appreciate it? But there are more complex factors at work. Is the content you’re viewing appropriate to share with your friends? Your family? Your coworkers? Who won’t appreciate a piece of content is as important to the sharing decision as who will. This applies to more than just “Not Safe For Work” content, as well. Maybe the content in question expresses strong opinions that some people will disagree with. Maybe it’s simply about a niche subject that most of your friends simply won’t get.
This issue of connecting with the thoughts and feelings of other people also goes the other direction. What content we decide to share depends on where it comes from. Is it a source we know and trust? Your reputation among your fans and followers and the way you interact with them has a significant impact on how much of your content gets shared.
One method you can use to encourage sharing is reverse psychology. A number of popular pages use this technique (sparingly), such as George Takei on Facebook. Share a pun, a brain teaser, or something else that takes a bit of extra thought. Then say, “Don’t share unless you get it right away!” The reaction is for people to want to prove to their friends that they passed the test and see if everyone else is as smart/clever/cool as they are.
Finally, there’s the snowball effect. The more buzz you’re able to generate for your content, the more buzz it will continue to generate. People will be more likely to share your content if they see that it’s popular. So if you can get that first little push in the right direction, it will lead to more and more buzz.