Why we share on social media

Sharing plaque

Robert Fulgham’s words of wisdom about sharing and other behavior (click on the photo to enlarge). Image courtesy of kakisky, Morguefile.

As a marketing copywriter, I’ve been taught by my bosses how to write to persuade people to buy a product or service. I create a catchy headline, stress the benefits of that product or service, include a call to action and marry the text to some interesting artwork to snag the attention of a reader amid everything else clamoring for their attention.

But with social media, writing for the Web added more dimensions to conventional writing. Yes, the above writing principles still apply, but you’re also writing using SEO (search engine optimization) techniques that attract search engines. So when people use the search box in Google or Yahoo, they shout “Hallelujah!” and rejoice when they find what you’ve put online. (Okay, maybe not “Hallelujah!” But at least a “Whoo-hoo!” or a relieved sigh.)

Plus, you’re creating “shareable content” with your web writing; content marketing became particularly big in 2013 when companies saw what a difference it made to their businesses. With shareable content, readers liked what you said and would spread it to others, whether it was a blog post, a tweet, a Facebook post, a white paper, an e-mail, an image or a link to your website. This type of marketing is more low-key; you’re convincing people to do business with you by showing your industry expertise and your empathy for your customers.

So why DO we share what we see, especially in social media? What IS it about some words or an image that resonates deep within our psyche and makes us actively want to share it with others?

I posed a different version of the 2nd question in a LinkedIn discussion group, but I was unsatisfied with the answers. Most of the other marketers didn’t get it; they gave me the conventional answer of “people share because it’s all about the benefits”.

It’s more than that, I believe. We share text, videos, infographics and other material because we seek to make others laugh, educate them, assist them when they need help, save them money or time, correct misunderstandings or show support for a particular cause. I share items since they’re amazing, wise, funny, helpful, touching, delicious or educational. And in the case of the University of Virginia video that I’ve shared below, it makes people smile and brightens up somebody’s day for a little while.

Blog readers, ever think about why you share? I’d love your thoughts.



Filed under Social Media

25 responses to “Why we share on social media

  1. I started writing me blog because I wanted to tell people about our gorgeous village in Italy. The blog grew and developed a life of its own. I like the community of the blog world and have made lots on new friends, some I have met, but most will always be online friends.

  2. Excellent question – certainly got me thinking. I share because I hope to connect and stay connected with people who share similar interests. I hope to educate and entertain. And, I like supporting certain causes, charities…great post 🙂

  3. D'ascent

    How funny….Was just talking about this social media machinery! I do think it’s telling how society has evolved to this point where one shares so “freely” online now. I think it’s about reaping immediate connection?

    • You’ve got something there. One of the great pleasures of WordPress is being able to meet like-minded people that enjoy the same things you do. But at the same time, you have to be careful not to over-share for security reasons. I’m cautious about what I put online because I know it’s going to be there a very, very long time, even if I take it down later.

  4. I share for human interactions with the subjects I enjoy. Hopefully someone enjoys them as much as I do 🙂

  5. I share on social media as a means of getting beyond my itty bitty circle. Don’t know much about the science of SEO, but I do know that people will laugh, think, and respond to what grabs them.

  6. travelrat

    A travel writing workshop I once went to advised: ‘You’re a story teller, not a salesman. If your story sells a place, that’s a bonus, not the primary objective’

  7. I’d like to think that maybe one small thing I write or share may actually help someone have a better day.

  8. I like to share for the interaction, and to find people with similar thoughts and view points. It’s interesting when you think you’re alone in a particular line of thought then find others who think the same way. 🙂

  9. Let me know if would be interested in participating in The Race (see my latest post). I’d be happy to promote your blog.


  10. I started my blog as a way to promote my (then) upcoming book, but my site has since taken on a life of its own. I enjoy interacting with the other bloggers out there. There is a communal spirit to writer blogs that I find heartening and delightful.

  11. I agree with your last paragraph 100%.


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