The Psychology of Social Media Sharing

Social media is a fantastic way to market your product and reach a targeted audience. If you can create content that resonates with your audience, you can essentially get free marketing by leveraging social media systems! When users share or like your content on a social media platform, you have a lot of leverage with your marketing endeavors and the social media platform can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you.

But why do people share content in the first place? Why do people choose to like or follow different brands and businesses on the web?

Social media is relatively new within the scope of humanity, and it is changing the way we interact with each other. Our interactions via social media influence the way we feel and can even impact people’s self-image and their perspective of others. It isn’t uncommon for some people to rate the value of their ideas by how many likes or follows they receive from a post. Social media exists as a platform that facilitates dynamic social interactions, and it is very complex in nature.

Defining Human Characteristics

To better understand the psychology of social media, and ultimately why some social media marketing campaigns flop while others go viral, we need to define what we know about human nature. Humans have often been called “social animals” in the past, so it’s only natural that we feel an emotional connection to our online social circles. The following are just a few well-known characteristics of humans (and consumers):

  • We prefer situations we control over situations we can’t control
  • We are very curious by nature
  • Generally, change scares us
  • Imagery from stories affect our subconscious as well as our emotions
  • We want things to be as easy and effortless as possible
  • We are very visual creatures

By catering to the above factors, you can better engage your audience. The more your content appeals to these characteristics, the more it will be shared and the larger impact you will have.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

This is due largely in part to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

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At the bottom of the needs pyramid, we first seek to satisfy our most basic needs such as sustenance (food and water), sexual reproduction, and sleep. Only after these needs have been met do we seek to satisfy needs higher on the pyramid.

However, in a social media context, the needs that are the most interesting are found at levels 3 through 5 on the pyramid. At level three humans seek to satisfy the needs of acceptance, friendship, love, intimacy, and interpersonal communications.

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One level higher (the self-esteem level), we begin to search for ways to satisfy needs and desires such as respect, self-esteem, confidence, and achievement. The desires at this level help explain why some people are demoralized when they receive negative social flack on Facebook while others are elated when their post has mass appeal and gets a lot of likes.

Lastly, the top level of the pyramid (the self-actualization layer) describes our needs for morality, acceptance of truths, and problem solving.

Social Media Helps Satisfy Needs

Once you understand that social media helps users satisfy these basic human needs, things start to make a lot more sense. For example, one reason people like to share media and content is because it helps them connect with their friends. If the information is funny, shocking, or entertaining, people like to share content to feel like they are “in the know.”

Instagram-Hipster-480x480-1Don’t believe me? Just consider the subculture in the US known as “hipsters.” Countless jokes have been made about this demographic with the idea that hipsters are usually the first to experience a new idea. They feel social credibility in knowing or doing something “before it was cool.” The media they share and the information they digest helps them define themselves to others. However, this idea expands into many other cultures as well.

Furthermore, sharing and liking content helps satisfy users by giving them a sense of fulfillment. It helps them feel more connected to current events, new ideas, and new products. By sharing this connection with others, it even helps them to build and maintain friendships (the 3rd level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). By sharing information with their social circle, users even feel a sense of validation when their post and comments elicit floods of responses from other people.

In Summary

As social animals, we satisfy some of our most basic needs by taking advantage of social media. As a business, you have the opportunity to connect with your audience in ways that are unprecedented. Most businesses have not taken advantage of this growing platform, and if it's done right, social media can bring you tons of leads and new customers.

About 

Will Hanke owns Saint Louis' top independent Internet Marketing firm, Red Canoe Media. In addition to helping some of St Louis' most recognizable brands with their online marketing strategy, Will also is an Amazon bestselling author, speaker and teacher.

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