We are in the age of content overload! So much content about everything and then repeated a gazillion times. Mark Schaefer explains in The Content Code that internet information is projected to grow 500% by 2020. You’ll never see 98% of that content. As marketers, our job get a little harder every day fighting the game of being seen. We fight to produce, share, get noticed, get shared, and to be remembered. According to Mashable, 571 new websites are published each day, 350,000 Tweets are Tweeted, 48 hours of YouTube videos are uploaded and 2.73 million blog posts are written and published.
There is an unreal amount of information at our fingertips, more platforms out there to connect and socialize on, and the ways and amount of what we are sharing has changed. If you pull up your feed on most of your social media platforms you’ll see pictures of weddings, babies, travel, and career moves. While these topics still dominate the news feed, we see more and more individuals sharing sales, product pushes, meals, dirty laundry (both the dirty clothes and the emotional spews,) strong religious, social and political blurbs.
Now before we get too far into the “sharing” process, keep in mind that the age of Internet sharing started with opinion blogs so the idea of sharing personal opinions isn’t that wild. So what are the reasons people share on social media? As marketers, it is critical to understand why people share to better mold and shape content that people will want to share and will share.
What motivates a person to share? As you probably know, because we’ve heard it a billion times, people share content (and buy) from those they know, like and trust. Most people share because of relationships between connections. Research studies across all industries show that content being shared has more to do with the reader’s relationship to others than the relationship with the publisher. “Likes” on a post are the equivalent of a pat on the back or an “I agree with you” when having a discussion in person.
According to a study performed by the New York Times Customer Insight Group titled The Psychology of Sharing, there are five key reasons people share content.
We also know that people tend to “overshare” on social media (i.e. the dirty laundry posts, the everything I ate today post, the detailed list of daily activities post, etc.) While social sharing is the way our generation and the generations to follow get to know each other and communicate with the world, we can’t help but wonder “how much is too much?” We are in a world where pictures and content has the ability to reach the masses much faster. We can tweet, post a picture or update a status with a few clicks and let hundreds or even thousands of people know how we’re feeling on a particular issue.
There have been studies done on the over sharing theory. Researchers at Harvard University found that sharing personal thoughts and feelings activates the brain’s neurochemical reward system in a bigger way than when sharing the thoughts and feelings of others. Even with privacy settings in place, social media is never really “private.” And because people tend to have more access to our inside lives, it makes it easier to share more intimate details.
Researchers believe reality TV has also played a role in the age of over sharing. After seeing how the personal lives of regular people have turned them into pseudo celebrities, some hope to cash in on the “fame game.” Another study reports that young people (<25) think it’s “cool” to share too much. Posts of activities that could potentially come back to haunt someone in the future are done on a regular basis by many students. According to that study those who were under sharing were labeled “boring.” For many people, the desire to be popular outweighs the desire to be respected.
I know you’re thinking “yeah, this is old news…the classic over share but what does this have to do with content and social media marketing?” The age of sharing of what is generally considered inappropriate has created a certain percentage of the population that has no compass to gauge what is appropriate information nor do they care. More ads get ignored or overlooked because they aren’t “edgy” enough. The ability to earn, let alone keep, the attention of an audience online is dropping steadily.
So what is it that causes people to over share? Elizabeth Bernstein of the Wall Street Journal explains “This effort is known as ‘self regulation’ and here is how it works,” she writes. “When having a conversation, we can use up a lot of mental energy trying to manage the other person’s impression of us. We try to look smart, witty, and interesting, but the effort required to do this leaves less brain power to filter what we say and to whom.” That’s great but again what does this mean for content and social media marketing? When people don’t have enough brain power to filter what they say and share, they don’t have the capacity to remember it either.
What can we learn from the massive amounts of research that exists on social sharing?
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