Is the content we share a true reflection of ourselves?

the methodology behind sharing

the methodology behind content sharing is complex

We are exposed to a vast amount of content via social media. But what motivates us when deciding what content we will share?

The recent events in Paris have shown an overwhelming level of social media activity across all platforms with people who wished to show solidarity to those affected by the tragedy. And it is the psychological element in why this occurs which determines what we choose to share and why.

Studies going back as far as the 1980s (Possible selves, H.Markus & P.Nurius, 1986) suggest that there can be a great difference between how we view our actual self and the idealised person we would like to become. It is thought we often share content on social media in the mode of our idealised self e.g. sharing a success story of someone we aspire to be or a political commentary/opinion over things we feel strongly about.

Research carried out by Wave (as part of an eight year social media study) shows that there are five real, human and fundamental needs that are involved in all social behaviour:

  • learning;
  • relationships;
  • diversion;
  • progression;
  • recognition.

Content sharing data

All these apply in social media and content, and are worth important consideration in any social media marketing strategy. The data from Wave suggests that the content we share is not necessarily the information we value for ourselves.  This diagram below is a great example of this for active Belgian Internet users who took part in the survey.

As you can see for content on ‘useful info/how to tips’ about 37% would value this content for themselves but only 10% would share that with others.

Belgian users data

Belgian internet users’ data

This evidence is supported by a study by the New York Times Consumer Insight Group “The Psychology of Sharing: Why Do People Share Online” which showed that 73% of participants shared information because it allowed them to connect with others. Consumers are much more likely to share data that expresses their point of view or which could be of value to others in their network.

Connecting with others is so important to us because it can help nurture our relationships. For example, if a close family member is an avid animal lover you may share a funny animal video with them in mind.  The same study suggested that 78% of people said they would share content to keep them connected with people they may otherwise lose touch with.

To provide up to date and relevant content, brands need to consider both what their target audience would value themselves and what they would share with others. Therefore, offering interesting and useful information which attracts the consumer’s attention is a key component of an effective digital media policy.

Other options to consider are content that potential customers would want to share with others which helps to network and develop the brand’s online presence e.g. entertaining and inspiring content or factual information or useful offers.

Curious about other insights resulting from the Wave study, or want to discuss how your brand’s content can win the battle for consumer’s attention? We’d be happy to help. Get in touch for a chat.


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