Positive social sharing is a major opportunity for marketers. Loyal customers who post about your brand on social media can reinforce positive perceptions of your brand and what it represents, and bolster your app or website’s organic acquisition efforts, making it easier to attract new customers who already understand your brand’s value.
But what makes someone decide to promote a brand on social?
Well, let’s start with you: what was the last piece of content you shared on social media? If you ask yourself why you decided to share it, what comes to mind? Maybe you thought it was funny or moving or informative… but so what? What motivated you to share it with your wider network of connections?
We all have reasons for doing the things we do. But those conscious reasons aren’t always the same as our actual psychological motivations. And if you’re looking to encourage customers to promote your brand on their social networks, understanding some of those psychological motivations on a deeper level can make it easier to nudge your users to take action.
3 key reasons we share things on social media
Every minute of the day, 277,000 Tweets are put into the world. Every minute. That’s to say nothing of all the Yelpers reviewing and Facebookies posting and Tumblrs tumbling. So, what’s driving us?
1. The urge to engage with our communities
One of the most basic human urges is the desire to be recognized by peers, family, and your community. Back when we spoke with Aida Bielkus about how meditation can impact you as a marketer, we discussed this innate human impulse and the theme was echoed in another piece by Tamara McCleary, an expert on relationships and conscious business. Part of the joy of sharing is in seeing people’s responses to what we share. When we’re validated—either positively or negatively—by someone’s response to a share, this triggers a sense of community.
One University of Queensland study had participants share content on social media—and secretly arranged things so that those posts received no likes or comments. The participants’ posts went into a void, essentially, with no acknowledgement. The study found that “participants who did not receive feedback on their updates had lower levels of belonging, self-esteem, control, and meaningful existence. Together, these findings indicate that a lack of information sharing and feedback can threaten belonging needs.”
When someone shares content supporting your brand on social, they’re essentially vouching for you with their friends and family. That’s a big deal. And it’s only going to happen if you’ve build a strong, mutually beneficial relationship with that customer by providing them with a relevant and valuable brand experience both with your app or website and through your messaging channels. That strong relationship is the bedrock supporting positive social sharing; you have to make that happen before you can reap the benefits.
2. The desire to influence how other people perceive us
Cultivating identity is something each of us do every day—through our style of dress, manner of speech, hair style, and more. We also cultivate identity by creating a digital persona based in part on what we choose to share on social media.
Psychological research has long explored the ways in which we seek to be our ideal selves—a tendency which preceded the internet. These selves are the selves we’d like to be, as opposed to how we actually perceive ourselves. People tend to share content that reflects this ideal version of themselves. Some of this sharing could just be to rack up social currency, but some might actually inspire growth. Sharing toward a version of ourselves we’d like to be isn’t necessarily false or phony. The internet might actually be helping us to cultivate personas that more accurately represent who we wish to be. That’s a great thing. By sharing content in the digital world that reflects these ideal versions of ourselves, we can make it easier to go out into the physical world and become someone who more closely resembles that ideal.
To take advantage of this tendency, brands need to provide sharable content that supports their customers’ vision of their ideal selves. What that looks like will be different for different brands—targeting your customers with a sharable News Feed Card when they reach an in-app goal may well make sense for a foreign-language learning app but not for an on-demand candy delivery app. Just make sure to keep your brand’s specific audience and your brand story in mind.
3. Our innate response to storytelling
When we hear a good joke, it’s normal to want to tell that joke to the very next person we think might appreciate it. That’s because we’re all storytellers. In the same way, when we hear a good idea, we often find ourselves looking to share that idea with other people. All of this speaks to our fundamental nature as information-sharers. We no longer pass information from village to village by word of mouth. We do it in an instant, on the web, but it’s the same basic impulse to connect, to capture story, and to spread stories around.
A compelling, human story can trigger the release of oxytocin in the brain, making people who read or watch it more empathic and more likely to cooperate with others. That means that using storytelling in your marketing content and emphasizing human side of your brand and its value proposition can do a lot to encourage your users to highlight those stories on social media.
Before you nudge your users to share your brand on social, make sure that you’ve built the kind of strong relationship with your audience that will support this kind of request. Consider using News Feed Cards as part of your customer messaging mix; this outreach channel is great for rich, memorable content and easy for your users to share on social. And remember to keep it real, stay true to your own brand voice, make sure you’re providing value, and put relationships first.