Why Do People Share? The Psychology of Sharing on Social

Brands vie for social shares with all of their content.

They create infographics, memes, blogs and slideshows, all in the quest for shares and getting new eyeballs on their content and their brand.

The benefits of shares are self-explanatory. The power of word-of-mouth recommendation is stronger today than it has ever been. The power of social media has made friend-to-friend recommendations more valuable than flashy endorsements or abrasive advertisement.

When you create content that gets shares, you’re effectively earning free advertising from the most trusted and authoritative source there is.

You’re also building a deeper relationship with a follower, someone who could become a customer or even a brand ambassador.

Have you ever wondered just what makes people want to share a piece of content? What mechanisms are at work in a person’s desire to share something with loved ones and friends?

Well, a lot of psychology, my friends.

Let’s check out some of these psychological elements and how you might incorporate them into your content to boost shares and exposure.

We Want to Educate and Inform Our Loved Ones

Perhaps the biggest reason people share things on social media is to entertain, inform, and provide useful knowledge to their loved ones.

When a person finds an in-depth article, expose, or blog on something they find interesting and want to share with others, a particular part of our brains lights up:

“The TPJ or the temporoparietal junction is this area of the brain that lit up during functional magnetic resonance imagine (fMRI) brain scans when people were first exposed to new ideas that they would later recommend,” says Mridu Khullar Relph for BufferApp.

The social nature of our brains inspires us to share informative or fascinating articles with people we feel could benefit from reading them.

This urge to inform and educate our loved ones should motivate you to create in-depth articles for your own brand, to disseminate to your social media followers.

Whether it’s an industry-related study or an inspirational opinion piece, taking the time to create deep content for your followers will pay off.

We Want to Define Ourselves

According to a study by the New York Times Customer Insight Group, one of the main reasons people share things is because they seek to define themselves before their loved ones and acquaintances.

It’s not necessarily that we seek to share our true selves; it’s the idealized version of yourself, the person you wish to be in the future, that gets traction on social media.

A 1986 psychological study entitled Possible Selves explored people’s tendencies to link their possible selves with personal motivations. We make decisions and adjust our expectations based on the people we would like to become, the people we could become, and the people we are afraid of becoming.

Social media provides an unprecedented opportunity for people to present their possible selves. Through social sharing, we provide insight into our motivations, passions, desires and ambitions, helping to further define the people we hope to become to those we want to know us.

We Want to Feel Connected to the World

Another main reason for sharing?  We want to feel connected to the world around us.

Taking part in the zeitgeist and sharing our opinions on topics du jour can help us feel connected to the world, our countries, our professions and our friends.

We long to take part in society, and to experience things, even if it’s virtually, with our friends.

Whether it’s the dress of many colors, the political landscape, or pop culture, sharing allows us to connect with and influence people who have similar tastes as ourselves.

Creating content that taps into current issues or pop culture moments can help inspire your followers to notice, and share, the things you post.

We Want to Show Others That We’re Part of Something Exclusive

Exclusivity is a gold mine in marketing and in online content.

People like feeling as if they know something that others don’t. They enjoy being part of exclusive clubs or deals that other people aren’t.

What is it about exclusivity that drives action and purchase? Fear of missing out, for starters.

When people sense that an exclusive offer or piece of information is in their sights, they simply must pounce on it.

This goes back to primal times when being “in the know” was a highly valuable trait for people in members of ancient tribes. If you had knowledge that others didn’t have, you were more highly revered and thus valued by members of your tribe. You also had the power to wield very important knowledge that could help others.

Create something that stokes these desires to be part of something exclusive. Get the edge on a unique piece of information and create an attractive, visual post. Denote your content’s exclusivity, and watch the shares role in.

The psychology behind what makes marketing and advertising successful is fascinating. It can also help you capitalize on your brand’s strengths.

How do you use psychology in your marketing or social media presence?

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