The Psychology of “Sharing”

Every online advertiser is familiar with a usual metrics, such as click through rates. These industry standards usually measure how many people viewed or clicked on creatives, but they stop short of calculating whether or not the user passed along the content.

The very principle of social networking relies on the human need to share things, from personal feelings to amusing ads or interesting articles. Most marketers know that people are more likely to view and absorb content that’s suggested to them by their peers because of the trust factor.

Consumers believe that their friends understand their personal tastes and values, which turns ordinary content into a kind of premium service. Simply stated, they assume that they’ll like whatever a friend tells them to read or watch. Conversely, sharing has a bonding component built around expectations on behalf of both parties. When person A sends person B a YouTube video, he or she awaits the other person’s reactions, opinions, and reciprocal communications. No one sends a digital message thinking that it’s going to fall on deaf ears or eyes, as the case may be. Sharing is designed to generate fodder for future discussions.

Share Icons

For these reasons, author and guest contributor Dan Greenberg recommends analyzing the basis for sharing behavior and using these insights to guide advertising campaigns. For example, he states that consumers share to establish identity. Contemporary branding efforts are tied to notions of the self concept and the need to project a public image. Basically, when people post music videos on their friends’ Facebook pages, they are trying to send a message that transcends the song itself. They’re trying to convey a connection between the artist or composition and their individual character. It’s also possible that they’re attempting to relay an emotion through mutual experience. More often than not, their motivation involves a little bit of both.

In order to capitalize on this knowledge, Greenberg advises targeting the consumer’s viewers. It’s one thing to capture the attention of a social butterfly, the kind of person that will repost almost anything. The key is to impress the person twice removed from the initial action. This sounds like a tall order, but kudos to Greenberg for his innovative approach. He’s definitely onto something, although he’s probably a bit ahead of his time.

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