In my previous post on Sharecasting, you were introduced to term itself and the differences between sharecasting and broadcasting were highlighted. This material comes from research recently conducted by the New York Times Customer Insights Group partnering with Lancaster Research. Get their report here.
What I want to examine for this post are the 5 motivations behind why people share content via social media. Understanding what might motivate people to share helps you better choose what you create and curate, so that it may be more frequently shared. This nets more traffic for your blog, and, hopefully, more conversions as well (provided, of course, you’ve actually designed your pages to convert).
Take a look at the 5 different sharing motivations this study uncovered. The motivations come from the study, but for each one I’m making my own observations.
1. To bring valuable and entertaining content to others
This is the obvious one. I can see why it’s included, but is it alone motivation enough? I wonder if the next question would have been: “Why do you want to bring valuable and entertaining content to others?” they could have dug deeper into the motivation. Because I believe that when pressed, the answers would have been the remaining four motivations.
What is the primal human drive to share experience with each other? Why does it exist? Is it a social learning mechanism to ensure bonding and therefore tribal survival?
2. To define ourselves to others
Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. By sharing with others, we are sharing of ourselves. We are communicating who we are to other people. If others like what we share, we feel good. We feel validated and liked. We strenghten our relationships with each other. If others do not like what we share, that sometimes doesn’t feel so great. It can feel like we’ve been rejected. If someone else doesn’t like the same music I like, I don’t take it as a rejection of me, I take it at face value: it’s the music they don’t like.
Not my fault they have lousy taste in music.
One person in the study said:
I try to share only information that will reinforce the image I’d like to present: thoughtful, reasoned, kind, interested and passionate about certain things.
This motivation is especially important for lifestyle content, because people who see themselves as living a certain lifestyle need to communicate that to others for reinforcement. They share both with others who have the same lifestyle and those who don’t as a way to validate themselves by contrast and also to “convert” others.
For example, a person who discovers the Paleo diet may share quite a bit with friends and family in order to say “this is the new me, this is now how I define myself” but also as a way to say “you should try this, too.”
Participants in a lifestyle often have ways of dressing or equipment they use which defines them as living a chosen lifestyle. For example, outdoor gear & clothing, roleplaying game miniatures & dice, or gardening equipment. These can be shared visually on Pinterest or Instagram.
3. To grow and nourish our relationships
One primary way people grow and nourish relationships is by sharing with each other in search of common likes and dislikes. When you know your friend hates Wal-Mart, you know you can entertain her and grow closer to her by sharing pictures from the website peopleofwalmart.com. For people who love a particular television show, book, or artist, they bond with each other by constantly sharing that which reinforces the object of their admiration. On the web, fan sites spring up and a great deal of high-intensity sharing happens on them, in addition to the normal social media venues like Facebook.
The advent of social discovery in social media aids in this even further. By finding new people according to interests we have, we’re predisposed to like them. Any relationships would already be off to a good start. A Harry Potter fan can always find things to talk about with another Harry Potter fan.
And while “fandom” may be the somewhat extreme example, it’s the best one to remember when considering your content marketing and curation.
Sites which allow for the creation of groups facilitate this kind of sharing, such as Facebook (Example: Harry Potter) or LinkedIn (Example: Project Management).
Participants in the study said that sharing made them feel more fulfilled because they were more involved in the world and more valuable to others. If you don’t share with others, you can feel totally alone even in a crowded room. Sharing not only makes others feel better, it makes you feel better.
I feel that this would be especially true with motivational, inspirational, and affirmative messages.
Twitter is great for this type of sharing: short, inspirational messages, quotes, and links to motivational pictures (Pinterest) and videos (YouTube).
5. To get the word out about causes or brands
Hey, that kinda sounds like marketing!
But just as with the first motivation, I feel that this one works better if it really comes packaged as one of the other motivations. You want to get the word out about your brand, but that won’t really get any traction unless you can appeal to the other motivations.
- Is your brand part of a lifestyle?
- Does your brand have fans?
- Is your brand something that inspires and fulfills others?
- Can your brand help others strengthen their relationships with each other?
You may be hard-pressed to connect some of these motivations to your brand, but if you dig a bit, you probably come up with something. That’s your challenge and your goal.
Sharing is all about relationships
Sharing and relationship are really just two words about the same thing. No “relating” can possibly take place without sharing. And you can’t share with someone without relating to them. So sharing really is all about relationships. The stronger the relationship, the more trust there is. The more trust there is, the more likely a sale will result.
Now ask yourself: what’s your motivation to share this post?
And I don’t mean that as a cheap trick to get shares. Truly: if you feel the urge to share, stop for a moment and ask yourself why. Knowing your own motivations helps you understand the motivations of others, and that helps your marketing in the long run.