We currently live in a world of overwhelming amounts of digital information. In fact, data is set to increase 500% by 2020 (the equivalent of five internets) – that is A LOT of noise. Consumers are now experiencing “content shock,” which is to say that there is too much stuff for too little attention. For example, there is an average of over 1,500 possible stories Facebook can show a day in YOUR news feed. As marketers we do our best to create content that breaks through all this noise and stands out as unique and valuable. This all starts by going beyond creating great content.
In late March, Mark Schaefer spoke at Social Media Marketing World in San Diego on his idea of “content ignition” which is thoroughly discussed in his new book, The Content Code. He states that great content is not the finish line, it’s the starting line. The real power is in content that connects, engages and moves through the network through social sharing.
Research from eMarketer shows that 83% of brand marketers view social sharing as the number one benefit of social media1 because 70% of consumers say they are more likely to make a purchase based on a friend’s social media updates. This goes to show that brand power and resonance isn’t coming through content, it’s coming from content transmitted by friends.
Why exactly do we share – why do we transmit content to others? Understanding the why is important when creating content that is shareable. The New York Times sponsored a research study on the psychology of sharing2. They were able to determine five motivations for sharing content:
- To bring valuable and entertaining content to others – 94% carefully consider how the information they share will be useful to the recipient.
- To define ourselves to others – 68% share content to give people a better sense of who they are and what they care about.
- To grow and nourish our relationships – 78% share information online because it lets them stay connected to people.
- Self-fulfillment – 69% share information because it allows them to feel more involved in the world and valuable.
- To get the word out about causes or brands – 84% share because it is a way for people to show support for causes and brands they care about.
These are very personal reasons for sharing content – as content creators, we must hone in on these motivations. Unfortunately today, many companies create content with the hope of receiving something in return – a financial benefit of some sort. Yet, it is clear that consuming and sharing content is an emotional benefit for people, not a financial one – we must steer away from this traditional business view.
By understanding the why, we can change this old-style thinking and start creating content that fills a need. When we fill that need and provide an emotional benefit for our audience, we start to see the power of social sharing.