People always and only share things that help them express their identity. Understanding this is the biggest key to inspiring people to share your stuff (articles, pictures, memes, videos) on social media.
I’ll say it again because it’s just so basically, fundamentally, crucially true: people always – and I mean always, without exception – share whatever they feel best helps them express their identity.
It's a little harsh but it's true: no one wants your brand’s identity or your businesses’ message…. unless that person already feels so identified with your brand or product or service that talking about how much she loves it helps others to understand who she is. Why should your audience share your content?
The more you think about social sharing from your audiences’ and potential customers’ point of view, the more you understand that they might “Like” your businesses’ posts – they might even comment on those posts – but there’s no way that a member of your audience will share your post (and thus extend your reach and make your content go viral) unless she feels that sharing it helps her to express something meaningful and worthwhile about herself.
The examples that I’ll give here are specifically inspired by Facebook (since it’s the big behemoth and thus the lingua franca of social media marketing), but if you consider these for a moment, you’ll find that the same principles will apply equally to every other existing form of social media – Twitter, Instagram, etc.
Let's Explore How to Create Social Media Content that Your Audience Will Want to Share
I find that it helps first to understand that every post that a person makes, or shares, on social media contains both an underlying statement of her identity and an underlying request for validation of her identity from others. Understanding these underlying currents in relationship to your audience will help you have a better handle on how to inspire people to share your brand's content on social media.
Let’s consider some samples of things people often want to express about themselves. Do any of these samples resonate with you? As you read the samples, think about what statements of identity and validation members of your audience are likely to experience. How can you help them express their identity through your posts?
In these samples, the first statement, in blue, is the underlying statement of identity and the second sentence, in italics, is the underlying request for validation of identity from others.
Identity: I am helpful and in-the-know!
Validation: Let me tell you about cool upcoming events, discounts, neat stuff, aren’t you grateful I did?
Identity: My life is busy / fulfilling / tiring and I’m angry / grateful / sad!
Validation: Listen to me tell you a story about my day, doesn’t it strike a chord with you too?
Identity: I have a great sense of humor!
Validation: Check out this funny YouTube clip or this LOLCat picture, isn’t it hilarious?
Identity: I care about important causes!
Validation: See this political meme I’m sharing, isn’t it moving?
Identity: I have excellent taste in music and an intense inner emotional life!
Validation: Listen to this music video or song I’m sharing, don’t you enjoy it, too?
Identity: I am thoughtful and deep!
Validation: Check out this in-depth article about a subject I care about, isn’t it interesting?
Identity: I celebrate the beauty in my life!
Validation: Check out these pictures of my beautiful friends, family, lunch, birdhouse, aren’t they worth attention and admiration?
Will sharing your content gain your audience validation with their friends?
Now consider this: in order to make certain that your brand's content is shared, all you have to do is make sure that the content resonates with an underlying statement of identity that people want to make, and that it has a high chance of winning for them the kind of validation that they want from their friends and associates.
In future articles, I'll explore examples and case studies of just how you can make this work for your business' social media marketing. In the meantime, get thinking about how you can create content that resonates with the identity that your potential customers want to project and that will give them the kind of social validation that they desire.
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