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Social Sharing - Love, Fear, Harmony, Despair: What Drives Shareable Content

Updated on December 18, 2017
Social Sharing - How to Create Content for Social Media Marketing
Social Sharing - How to Create Content for Social Media Marketing | Source

We’re all used to share posts that we find to be the most curious and awe-inspiring ones in social networks. However, we seldom question the reasoning for the act of sharing itself. What are the triggers that make us want to share this or that piece of information with online audience that we relate to? This question is worth being answered to learn what drives the human intrinsic desire to share.

As a website owner who knows the importance of social marketing, you are to be interested in levers that make your content go viral and win you a desired increase in popularity. Let’s explore what these levers are and find out how you can create content that wins you admiration in social networks.

Ready for the journey? Let’s dive into research!

Psychology of Sharing: Emotions Worth Being Shared

New research indicates that articles that elicit certain emotional responses and impress us are most likely to be shared. In this regard, psychologists speak about Pleasure-Arousal-Dominance emotional state model. This model tells you that the emotional cluster that this or that event or piece of information elicits may be ranked on three different scales that are the following:

  • Pleasure scale. This scale tells you how positive the emotions that a piece of information derives are. Such emotions/states as happiness, admiration, satisfaction would definitely tap on pleasure end of the scale, when distress, grief and sadness rest next to the displeasure end.
  • Arousal scale indicates how strong the emotional response that a piece of information elicits is and how much this emotional response motivates you to take some action. For instance both rage and grief rank low on the pleasure scale. At the same time, rage is a high arousal state (it makes you want to act destructively to feel relieved), and grief is a low arousal state (that requires solitude and inner work of one’s mind).
  • Dominance scale shows how much control one feels in this or that situation. Positive emotions frequent to be dominant, when such states as fear rank low on dominance scale (if you fear something, you feel lack of control in face of the perceived danger).

Modern research on social sharing shows that the most winning combination of emotions that gets articles shared is High Pleasure, High Arousal and High Dominance. Now you may be thinking something like: ‘Hurrah! I know the secret!’ However, creating the content that elicits such an emotional response is a pretty tough thing. For instance, your content should be some kind of revelation (high arousal) that promises a very positive change in one’s life (high pleasure) that will take place after a person takes some action (high dominance).

High Pleasure, High Arousal and High Dominance is pretty much a principle that makes people click through ubiquitous click-baits (although everyone knows they’re spammy). When people see something like ‘Lose 30 lbs. by just eating X every day’ they are motivated to learn a simple formula of success that they can incorporate to their lives to achieve the much desired result. For your website, you don’t need false promises. Just keep in mind that your article should make a truly strong impression that supercharges users with positive energy and makes them feel in charge of achieving a positive change. The more striking and awe-inspiring your content is, the more likely people are to share it.

Small Tip: To supercharge your articles with positive energy, use motivating imagery that depicts confident, harmonious, smiling people and lush nature. Remember that your imagery should look authentic: posed stock photos are trite and elicit a way lower emotional response than snapshots of real people in real situations. See an example below:


Social Validation as a Driver of Content Sharing

Social networks are addictive not only as means of communication. They are a place for earning social approval. When we earn ‘likes’, we earn approval of our friends and acquaintances and get an apprehension that we’re doing right things and living the life that we’re worth. The same thing is true in relation to shared content: we share content to get people know it and to get them pay their gratitude to the one who shared the content in form of ‘likes’ and ‘reposts’. That’s why, when we share content, we keep in mind our audience in social networks and want to generate some value for it.

Studies have shown, that people are motivated to generate value for others by sharing content, and tend to share content that has been shared many times more than the content that has not yet been shared. Share counter works as a mean of social validation that says: ‘X people found this article insightful and shared it’. This does add value to the article. It works like with a crap video that got 1 million views on YouTube: this 1 million of views definitely make it a piece of content worth more careful consideration.

Takeaway. I’m not telling you that you should forge likes and shares of your content. However, you should make sure that you have noticeable social sharing buttons next to your article (no one will spend time searching for them). And you’d better go for buttons with counters that show the number of likes and shares that your content has got. Here different social sharing extensions come handy. For instance, if you run a WordPress website, look for popular social sharing solutions on the plugin market and you’ll definitely get more shares with modern, intuitive sharing interface.

Social Sharing Buttons - Didi Fashion WordPress Theme
Social Sharing Buttons - Didi Fashion WordPress Theme

Check out the way social sharing buttons are implemented in this fashion WordPress theme. A pretty noticeable social buttons widget floats on the left and remains in the same position when users scroll down the page. As a result, users don’t have to get to the end of the article (or scroll up back to top) to share the content. If you mind your social sharing buttons’ usability this way, you’re bound to get your articles shared at the speed of light.

Top Drivers of Content Sharing

Now, that you know what emotions and social factors trigger content sharing, it’s time to learn what ingredients of success you should capitalize on. Let’s see what the main factors that make your content shareable are:

  • Entertainment. Make your article fun to read sipping a cup of coffee and people will share such a treat with others. Don’t be too serious: you’re not writing a scientific research. No matter what your topic is, mix information-laden passages with addressing your reader and sharpen your sense of humor. Always keep in mind that you’re writing not for the purpose of writing itself, but for the purpose of creating an easily digestible piece of information that makes everyone want to read it to the end.
  • Practical value. As you’re not writing a novel, people won’t read it just for deriving pleasure from reading. Your article should have some practical value and relate a take-away lesson that your readers can in some way incorporate to their lives. For this purpose, you should always keep in mind your target audience and their interests. Address poignant questions and end your article with bulleted list of take-away tips/ how-to instructions that is a roadmap to taking the actions that your article concerns.
  • Sharing as self-expression. People tend to share information to show their support to causes and issues that they’re concerned about. Articles that get shared by the person closely mirror the person itself and inform others about person’s interests, tastes and beliefs. The takeaway here is, again, that knowing your target audience, its concerns and beliefs, is crucial for achieving impressive popularity of your content.
  • Giving incentives. One more way to boost content sharing is offering incentives for shares. I guess the scheme is not new to you. It goes like: ‘Share this content in X social networks and get a discount for our new product’. Other incentives can be a gift given to the top sharer or access to exclusive content. Incentives prove effective in encouraging content sharing, but don’t abuse this practice, as than no one will care about your content, people will care only about incentives.

Aesthetics of presentation. The way you present content matters a lot when it comes to content sharing. Visual presentation should be always taken into account: mind visual structure, hierarchy of titles and subtitles, tags, imagery and video that support your article’s message. Keep in mind that many articles get shared as they deliver information in unconditional ways (infographics, interactive schemes, animated graphs and diagrams, etc.) Don’t forget about aesthetics of content presentation and this will pay off in increased shares.


To create viral content, keep in mind the emotions your content elicits. Your articles should excite, motivate, inspire and be the ones that appeal to your target audience. Balance entertainment with informativity and practical value, mind logical structure and aesthetics of your article, give incentives to active sharers and take care of usability of your website’s social sharing buttons. By following all these simple tips, you’ll become a social marketing king, whose content gets spread around the globe and opens new horizons for you!

Are there any insightful content sharing tips & strategies that you’ve found effective? Please, share them in the Comments section below!


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