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.
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”
“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.”
“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.