Content aggregation, also known as social sharing, doesn’t happen by accident.
Recent studies reveal the complex psychological processes that precede sharing of information with our social circles and spheres of influence. The motivations that lead us to click the “share” button are deeply rooted in evolutionary survival mechanisms as well as the principles of social psychology.
Once you understand what motivates your audience to aggregate your content artifacts, you can leverage that information to stretch your marketing reach – as well as your budget!
How Content Sharing Helps You
When your readers share your content with their circles of influence, it sets several powerful processes in motion.
Much like word-of-mouth or personal recommendations, information received from a friend, family member or trusted associate is considered significantly more trustworthy than sponsored posts or paid advertising. Consequently, these audiences will pay progressively more attention to aggregated content.
With every like and share, you also stretch your precious marketing dollars. You’ve already invested in the content’s creation, and you significantly expand its reach and your own brand awareness with every person or group it lands in front of.
In the social network setting, the more a piece of content is shared, the more the platform’s algorithms will allow it to be seen. This is especially true on Facebook, where patterns of content aggregation are closely tracked.
Every time your online marketing artifacts are shared, it’s literally free promotion for you! But each subsequent like or share increases the snowball effect that can, if you’re lucky, take your content viral.
Why Social Network Users Share Content
The human tendency to share is rooted in our earliest quest to survive. Cavepeople with wooly mammoth leftovers shared with neighboring cave families, in the hope of reciprocation on a future bad-hunting day. Consequently, the propensity to share is buried deep in our DNA.
Today, we share in social networks for a number of more contemporary motivations as well. Although some of these motivations make sense, others may surprise you. Either way, they all contribute to content aggregation.
To Create or Sustain an Image.
In person or online, we strive to create, control and curate the image we present to the world. Many social network participants use likes and shares to perpetuate and enhance their carefully crafted image.
For example, if someone has created an online image of altruism and positive thinking, they share stories and memes that portray them as kind, passionate or thoughtful. For someone who wants to be perceived as an activist, he or she may share primarily about animal rescue or political causes.
Although these types of social networkers share information that interests them, their primary motivation for content aggregation is how it will make them appear when it shows up in their friends’ feeds.
For Validation or Attention
Other social networkers share in hopes of receiving validating responses from their online circle. When their social friends express gratitude or agreement about a shared artifact, they benefit from feelings of acceptance and solidarity.
Many artists and creatives fit into this category when they share their own work online. Even if their social networking friends aren’t particularly enthused about their creations, many will offer validation nonetheless.
Social networkers who are prone to sharing their life’s misfortunes or negative emotions also fit into this category, for the psychological gain the resulting attention and sympathy brings them. Unfortunately, their content aggregation patterns bring little value for online marketing efforts.
To Promote a Cause
In a less self-focused manner, many social participants share news about causes or issues they care about. Their habits of content aggregation help them to increase their social sphere with other like-minded networkers.
The cause may be a formal charity or fundraising activity, or a more generalized story or statistic that portrays the plight of certain groups. Political sharers also fall into this category. The psychological benefits that we derive from helping others are profound. It doesn’t hurt that this type of content aggregation makes us look good to our online friends.
To Build Relationships
As humans, we benefit psychologically when we bond with our friends and acquaintances over a common event or a shared value. The depth of the psychological connection that can occur online might surprise you. Many social network users report developing psychological bonds through online interactions that are as strong as or stronger than those they develop in person.
The psychological motivation here is virtually identical to those that drive us to make friends “in real life.”
To Be Helpful
If you’ve ever shared the 2000 Uses for WD40 link, you probably did so because you truly found it helpful and believed your social friends would as well.
If you have friend who’s crazy for shoes, you’re likely to share stories, memes or images about shoes on his or her social page or timeline. We participate in this type of content aggregation because helping others makes us feel good and because we want to prove to our friends that we understand what’s important to them.
Because It’s Interesting, Entertaining or Valuable
When we come across content that is interesting or thought-provoking, it’s natural to want to share. The same holds true for artifacts that amuse us or make us feel good.
This category demonstrates the importance of creating content that’s engaging, no matter what the subject matter is. Professional writers and online marketers can take even the blandest of topics and create an interesting and engaging story that lends itself to content aggregation.
Also, kitten videos.
Thought Leaders: A Slightly Different Type of Aggregation
In the online world, influencers and thought leaders can be extremely powerful advocates in the quest to aggregate your content. Thought leaders are widely recognized online experts in a particular subject who influence the perceptions of their circle.
The psychology of influencers and their followers is a topic for another blog post, but suffice it to say, if you can get your content noticed – and shared – by an influencer or thought leader, that’s a real coup.
Not only will the thought leader’s followers see it, but they are also much more likely to share content that’s already been shared by someone they admire or respect.
Reach the Social Aggregators You Need
The psychological motivations listed above are in order from least to most desirable, but with few exceptions, any share is a good share.
Understanding the reasons that people share content and artifacts online will help you craft content tailored to reach your target audience. The psychology of marketing is a highly powerful means of persuasion that will provide a unique opportunity to improve your organization’s reach and brand recognition.
At Be Locally, we are experts at leveraging the psychology of online and content marketing to create value and increase your business’s bottom line. Contact us today to learn more about how we can expand your brand’s reach with content aggregation.