Social Media: the Psychology of Sharing - Part II


So, hopefully, you've already read the first part of this post, the Motivations, and maybe even shared it! (If you haven't, you'll probably share this one, won't you?) Anyway, now that we are familiar with the motivations for sharing content in general, we can now move on to the third element: Triggers. (I didn't forget the second element, I'll get back to that - promise!)

A Behaviour Model

While I was working on my MSc dissertation, I came across BJ Fogg's Behaviour Model, which I believe can help me explain the process of sharing content on social media. Based on Fogg's Behaviour Model (FBM), for a behaviour to happen, three elements should be present at the same time:

  1. Motivation
  2. Ability (I'll still come back to this!)
  3. Triggers

For the sharing, as a behaviour, to happen, these elements should all be available at the same time - kinda like the "fire triangle" - Heat, Oxygen, and Fuel. I explained motivation in the first part of the Psychology of Sharing, and skipped the second element, the Ability. For now, let's leave "ability" at this: a "Share Button" is pretty much always available at the end of every page or post nowadays, or the Retweet button for Twitter, or Reblog for Tumblr, etc. This leaves us with "triggers" here.

Emotions Triggers Sharing

A study published in Psychological Science journal in 2011 argues that triggering certain emotions can increase the chances of your content being shared.

[note]The sharing of stories or information may be driven in part by arousal. When people are physiologically aroused, whether due to emotional stimuli or otherwise, the autonomic nervous is activated, which then boosts social transmission. Simply put, evoking certain emotions can help increase the chance a message is shared.[/note]

Another study, published in NYTimes in 2010, showed that these emotions, which trigger sharing, can be categorised as Positive emotions and Negative emotions. Positive emotions can be triggered by different types of stories, such as cute, enlightening, inspiring, amusing, etc; whereas negative emotions can be a result of shock, anger, fear, etc. Of course if you're building a brand image, you're right to stick to the winning side of the coin, the positive triggers.

Now, Let's Go Viral

Now that we know the science behind sharing, we can use it to actually create contagious content. By following a scientific guideline, we can increase the chances of our content going viral. Just keep these in mind when you're creating content:

  1. Know your audience - their interests and their motivations
  2. Trigger the right emotion - inspire, scare, make them laugh, but usually go for positive
  3. Surprise your audience - don't give them heart attack though!
  4. Trust is a key - people prefer sharing from sources they trust
  5. Put a sense of urgency in it - the time is now!
  6. Be relatable - people share if they relate to it
  7. Be a person - write as a person, not a company

Try these and be a bit patient, and you will see the result. But if you don't feel like keeping all that in mind and you're not patient, or you wanna be global over night, you can always use Buyral.

Illustration by Hiking Artist