Home » Uncategorized » The Science Behind What Makes People Share Socially Online

According to Dr. Suzan Weinschank, Psychologist and Author of How to Get People to Do Stuff, humans have an inherent, built-in compulsion to always be discussing with other people “what the heck is going on. Who did what, with whom, why, who’s at the top of the hierarchy, who’s on the way down of the hierarchy.”

By bringing a human element into your content, you can capitalize into your readers’ natural desire to share it with others. Consider creating content that shares real human perspectives and tells their stories.

People are especially likely to share surprising content.

“The research tells us that people want to share things that are surprising — things that will make others feel,” Susan explains. Even if your content is technical or dry, find ways to add an emotional punch that will surprise readers and, thus, compel them to share.

She continues, “It’s not like I sit there and say, ‘I think I’d like to find something to share that is surprising.’ Or ‘I think I’d like to find something to share that will make my friends laugh or cry.’ We’re not thinking about it that way, so most of this is unconscious. But when we feel something, we want to share that so others will feel it too. When we’re surprised by something, we’ll want to share that.”

People want to share content that confirms their own self-stories.

I learned about the concept of self-stories from Susan. She writes about them on her blog: “Everyone has stories about themselves that drive their behavior. You have an idea of who you are and what’s important to you. Essentially you have a ‘story’ operating about yourself at all times. These self-stories have a powerful influence on decisions and actions. Whether you realize it or not, you make decisions based on staying true to your self-stories.”

Our online selves are an extension of our real-life selves. Everyone has an idea of who they are, and they want to share content that upholds that self-story. For example, Susan says part of her self-story is that she’s someone who makes complex scientific concepts simple, so she wants to share content on social media that aligns with that view.

As you create content, think about the real people in your audience. What about your content would make someone add it to their self-story? It’s a big deal for a customer or prospect to choose to add your article or video to their social media profiles.

Readers are smarter than you might think — and have an eye for detail.

I brought Brad on this episode of the Cloudcast to talk about his team’s popular blog series involving famous fictional characters and email signatures (their software company’s focus). A couple fun examples: If Game of Thrones characters Had Email Signatures and If Parks and Rec Characters Had Email Signatures.

Brad told me the story of how his team worked on these posts and quickly saw them become their top blog series of all time. In fact, this series represents 4 of the company’s top 5 blog posts ever.

So why did it work? Brad believes one major reason is because of the small details and inside jokes. “The shareability might not have worked if we were very generic about these posts. Our audience is smart, and they pick up on those things. When they pick up on those things, they remember your post. And I think it drives them to want to share it with their networks. I think being very thoughtful, and not generic with your content, it starts there.”

When crafting content you want people to share, remember that each small detail counts.

Hear more about Brad’s hilarious and high-performing blog series on the full episode of the Cloudcast — and you’ll also hear why Susan thinks this series works, from a scientific perspective.