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Why People Share … and How You Can Get Them to Share Your Work

This guest post is by Jonathan Goodman of www.viralnomics.com.

It’s Friday night. You just pulled your new shirt over your head and sprayed on some cologne. One look in the mirror is enough to remind you how awesome you look. Time to roll out.

The party doesn’t disappoint. 50 of your closest friends are here and you see the object of your affection in the corner. She’s a natural beauty, brunette and curvy with a smile that lights up the room. Feeling a little sub conscious and emotionally unstable you grab the box next to you and step on top of it. Taking in a deep gulp of air you yell, “Everbody! Stop what you’re doing. Tell me how good I look. Like me and tell your friends how good I look.”

Sounds silly doesn’t it? But this is what happens every day online.

In this post, I’m going to use research to explain this phenomenon of selective self-representation. Once you understand it, I’ll show you how to take advantage and make people want to share your blog posts material as a way of boasting.

Facebook narcissism

Research from Jonah Berger at the Wharton School of Business showed that that people with low emotional stability update their Facebook statuses more. [Reference - Eva Buechel, Jonah Berger (Under Review), Facebook Therapy? Why Do People Share Self-Relevant Content Online?] As a result, they are over-represented online. The status updates act as a form of therapy and both Likes and “atta boy” comments are medicine.

If you go back to my party example above, a person’s social network online is their trust circle. The user’s perception of how their trust circle views them is immensely important to their well-being. In fact, perceived social support has been shown to be more effective than actual received social support. [Reference – Wethington, E. and Kessler, C. (1986), “Perceived Support, Received Support, and Adjustment to Stressful Life Events,” Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 27 (March) 78-89.]

It boils down to four things. Everybody wants to show off to their network that they are intelligent, intellectual, attractive, and funny. Communication channels online are asynchronous. This means that the user has time to think both about what they are going to say and how that will make them look.

Therefore they selectively self-represent using status updates, and choosing material that will make them look intelligent, intellectual, attractive, and funny.

So how do we use this information?

No matter what your industry is, you’re here because you want to learn how to promote yourself using social media. It’s up to you which of the four traits you want to help your users self-represent with. What’s important is to appeal to the already converted, and to avoid being profound.

People who are already having success using your product or service will want to show it off. Those who haven’t discovered you yet aren’t interested in your product or service, so there’s no point in trying to get them to share it.

Instead, appeal to those who will share it—they are the ones who want to show off that they are intelligent for having already found it.

Perhaps the biggest blogging mistake I see is people trying to be profound. Unless you’re a leading researcher what you are writing about on your blog is nothing new. It has already been said a thousand times by others online, and for free, and will be said a thousand times more.

Because of this, phrasing becomes important. You must give people that are in the know a reason to share your materials. Make them feel special that they already know the subject of the article, and they will share it as an extension of their own thoughts. They do this because your article shows to their audience that they’re intelligent or intellectual (or funny or attractive).

Don’t believe me? Look at the wording people used when they shared an article from Darren Rowse’s Facebook page called “How to Get Overwhelming Things Done”. In his brief article Darren advocates setting aside 15 minutes a day on what you want to achieve. Good advice but nothing new. So what did people preface the article with when they shared it?

“Great advice for new bloggers and freelancers”

And

“Anyone has the time to blog. Very good tips from Darren Rowse”

Within the article itself some of the comments read as follows:

“You could not have said it better, I have taken this attitude and I do get things done. Great advice.”

And

“I agree … I think the biggest accomplishments we achieve in life depend on what we focus on each and every day on the journey towards it. Great advice… “

People are rarely interested in adding to the conversation

It’s a nice idea to think that people are going to want to read your blog and interact intelligently. It’s an even nicer idea to think that people will go to your blog to learn.

I consider myself much more realistic than that.

The goal of a blog or social media is to attract an audience to buy your high-value materials. This might be information or it could be a related product. Either way, your sole purpose is to create your message in a way that it spreads. A blog post is a tool, not your end game.

The way to do that is to allow your reader to take ownership of the material. If you write it in such a way that allows for them to self-represent, they will share. Everybody wants to be perceived as intelligent, intellectual, attractive, or funny. We all have our own version of a beautiful brunette that we want to impress.

Jonathan Goodman is a 2X author. His second book recently reached the #1 spot on Amazon in both the marketing and web marketing categories. Aside from consulting, he is currently writing Viralnomics: How to Create Directed Viral Marketing. The sections are being published for free online as they are produced. You can get up to date at http://www.viralnomics.com.

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Comments

  1. Perry says:

    Great post! Write what appeals to people. Empower them with knowledge.

  2. Samuel says:

    This is where uniqueness come into play and the need to resort to uniqueness all of the time.

    I agree with how the same content is talked about thousands of times. Make it appealing and the need to share that content!

    A very important article that many bloggers should read!

    • Thanks Samuel. Uniqueness is key. Most everything that bloggers speak about has been said before so it’s important to make your article stand out.

  3. I like the way you start your post with humor. The first part made me want to read the whole post and it was actually worth it. I like the way you hit the nail on the head. I actually learnt. Thanks!

  4. Ranjit says:

    hey this helps thanks!

  5. Reed Nixon says:

    The positive criticism is in order. There was a point there that made me feel like you were talking about me. I am impressed with the way you put across your point about sharing. I think the main thing is that you stay in topic and at the same time impress your readers. You can also appreciate the work of your readers in event and who knows? Soon you might have many people share your posts.

  6. Thanks a lot for the information Jonathan. You just hit the right note.There are a few things you need to learn if you want to make your post share-licious. You should focus on understanding your audience’s culture; improve on motivations and forget all about your ego. Be a trusted content source and give priority to your readers. Answer their questions and appreciate their comments. Thanks a lot for the good write.

  7. Paul Fisher says:

    Easy read and great information. I really got something out of it which is refreshing these days. Just really good and useful information. Thanks Jonathan!

  8. Nikhil says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    I learned something very important here, though in retrospect it feels like I knew it all along. Only, I did not know to know it better!

    The best sentences IMO in your post are:

    “The way to do that is to allow your reader to take ownership of the material. If you write it in such a way that allows for them to self-represent, they will share.”

    Golden words!

    What I would very much appreciate to hear from you is suggestions on ways to do exactly that. It gets difficult only because you cannot be sure what kind of people are reading your content and what it is they want to read. Of course, writing to the gallery helps, but can you suggest any ‘techniques’?

    Great post! Will be watching out for more from you!

    Cheers!

    • Thanks Nikhil. Impossible for me to give you specific advice. What I would say is to always think what your post will say about somebody else if they share it. If it would reflect well on that person you have a better chance of it moving. This is particularly true about the title and main image. Remember that everybody wants to selectively self-represent that they are one of: intelligent, intellectual, attractive, or funny.

  9. I know a lot of people who post a lot of FB statuses on their wall. I respect their freedom to freely use Facebook but don’t they think that’s why twitter is created so you can post as many thoughts or things you are doing all at the same time? Anyway, i learned a lot from your post. :) Great point of view you have. :)

  10. Jungo says:

    I just wanted to say thank you for the information on this post. Was able to get some value from it.

  11. Jon,

    I owe you big time. I’m very new to this (as you know), but I’ve been following the advice you’ve given here (and elsewhere) in writing– and my social media is heavily influenced by “Race to the Top.”

    Happy to say it’s all working like a charm. Stuff is actually getting shared now, and I’m getting all of these new questions and random comments about training from friends. I’m feeling so much better about the whole thing.

    In other words, to everyone else reading this: Go apply this. It works.

    -Dan

  12. Great post Jonathan. I really learned a lot from this. Waiting to implement it for myself.

  13. Really nice post I’ll also use this for myself .Thanks to post your great ideas.

  14. Glenn Drew says:

    This really goes deep into social networking. Different then most articles that I read before.

  15. Seth says:

    Hey Jon, great post, but you lost me when you wrote “feeling sub conscious”; the term is ‘feeling self-conscious’ as in overly-aware of how one looks or is perceived. I know, it’s a small thing- but it’s smack-dab in the middle of your narrative exposition and shattered my suspension of disbelief.

    Otherwise, agreed on all counts- let the first-time mommy bloggers engage in discussions of what their posts actually mean. I’ll link to my affiliate sites and sell stuff to anyone who’s buying.

  16. William says:

    This post is awesome. Keep them coming.

    William
    Helping Others To Succeed

  17. Danijela says:

    This tip is amazing, but honestly, I have no idea how to make this work. I’ll just have to figure out something I suppose. It does make sense. Thank you!