Share This or Else! – What Makes People Share Content?
When large companies talk about word of mouth marketing, they generally don’t care about simmering buzz – they get that naturally. Instead, they want something viral, something that spreads, something that sticks in a consumers mind. So how can you deliver that? By making sure you give people something they thing they have to share.
The Psychology of Sharing
Why do people share things? Instinctually, you might assume that people are selfish and keep things to themselves. For some you might be right, but when it comes to information, the opposite is true.
People like to be in the loop, being the first to know something means you’re important. You know something other people don’t know. Unlike an expensive car, you can’t show off information, without giving it away – which is exactly what people do.
Seeding information to people can influence if they pass it along or not. The questions to answer are:
- Is this exciting news to the consumer?
- Will the consumer feel privileged to know this?
- How are we seeding the information?
- Will the community facilitate the spread of information?
- Are the fanbases’ secondary relationships going to be interested in the information?
Take Advantage of Human Psychology
Since being privileged and being able to pass information revolve around human ego, we can take advantage of that emotion. By giving consumers good content, we help them feel important when they pass it to their friends.
The content should be easily read or viewed, and have the ability to be quickly passed along. This can mean including a tell-a-friend module, or ‘email this’ feature, or writing in bulleted style to facilitate offline word of mouth marketing.
The lighter the content, the more likely it is to spread along. Give consumers sound bites or summaries they can easily share with their friends.
Forcing It To Spread
Psychology can bring people to the water’s edge, but sometimes you have to push them in. Offering social proof, and strong calls to action can help push people to share your content.
Social proof lets people see how many other people are sharing your article.
Social proof, also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon that occurs in ambiguous social situations when people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior. Making the assumption that surrounding people possess more knowledge about the situation, they will deem the behavior of others as appropriate or better informed.
Consumers that haven’t shared the article begin to think they’re on the outside and not part of the community. They see how may other people have shared the product and think that they should too.
Modules like ‘Most emailed” or “On Digg” work well to highlight articles with high amounts of social proof.
Marketers have known that the best way to get consumers to do something, is to tell the exactly what to do. Another name for that is “call to action”.
Use strong calls to action on sharing links, and highlight them to stand out. By making it obvious, consumers that otherwise would not, may pass your content along. Consider how effective writing something like “Don’t forget to digg this” or “Email your friends” could be at creating an action.
Treat these shares as conversions, making sure to track them. Collect the data and tweak your content and ‘calls to action’ accordingly.
How well your content spreads depends on what you give to the user for spreading it. Will your consumer feel special, smart, or in the know? Or will people not care about what you have to say? Does your content excite people, share valuable information, or build buzz? How do you push consumers, and remind them to share your ideas?
With time, techniques develops as you grow to better understand the wants and needs of your demographic. Not everything will spread, and in the end, what does spread might surprise you. Consumers can be fickle, but making people want to share your information, can help increase your odds of creating viral content.
Have stories of how your content went viral? Share it and let us know what you did or why think people shared it?