The 5 W’s of Content Generation: The Why was created by SocialMediaMaiden
Psychology has always been one of my favorite topics of study. Ever since I was a child, I can remember I wasn’t content with knowing how something worked. I wanted to know why! I am sure my parents were tired of hearing me ask over and over why-why-why, but it has blossomed into a beautiful curiosity. I am excited to present the next W in our series; the WHY of social media content generation. More specifically the psychology of sharing.
Though there have been many studies done on social media in general, I have only been able to find one major study done about WHY people share on social media. The New York Times’ study, “The Psychology of Sharing, Why do People Share Online,” was published in 2011. It was a comprehensive research study in which the results were based on two qualitative research phases and a quantitative online survey of more than 2,500 medium-to-heavy online content sharers. However, they pulled it from the website in 2016. I am not exactly sure why. I was hoping to get a glimpse of the original study to pull from directly for this article, but alas we will have to stick with second-hand sources. The information that I have found from other sources seems to be fluid throughout, so I believe the information still has merit.
The study broke down into 5 reasons that people share information:
The reasons people share are:
To bring valuable and entertaining content to others.
To define ourselves to others.
To grow and nourish our relationships.
To get the word out about causes or brands.
Notice how every reason has an underlying emphasis on relationships. Whether it is to entertain or for professional growth, we share up our “status”. However, I believe there is another factor that plays a large role in content sharing: emotion. Jonah Berger wrote a book all about this phenomenon called: “Contagious: Why things catch on”. Berger’s research focuses on six principles that cause something to be wildly shared and goes viral:
Social Currency: We share things that make us look good
Triggers: Easily memorable information means it’s top of mind and tip of the tongue.
Emotion: When we care, we share.
Public: Built to show, built to grow.
Practical Value: News people can use.
Stories: People are inherent storytellers, and all great brands also learn to tell stories. Information travels under the guise of idle chatter.
Jonah realized that there are two main factors that make something “contagious”. How positive the article is and how excited it makes the reader.
So what? Now that I have thrown all this information at you, how does this translate into successful content generation? Well just this: take what you have learned last week in the Who of Social Media Content Generation and think about what your audience might connect to. How can you use relationships, status, and emotion to promote your services and strike a cord in your audience? Joe Matsushima the co-founder of Denizen Company once said, “Sharing is a fascinating phenomenon because liking–or even loving something doesn’t necessarily lead to sharing it with your peers. Typically, what leads a person to share something on social media is when it has a connection to them as an individual, be it political, emotional, cute or funny. People want to share with others how they perceive the world and reflect their tastes and how they define themselves.”