The 6 Principles of Sharing

The Best Way to Share on Social Media

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Credit for this article goes to the book Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger.

Some say organic is dead. But some of the best campaigns in the ad industry rely on organic. Shareable content. When done right, a product or service doesn’t have to be exciting to be shareable. The best kind of content is content that an audience shares just because they want to, not because they’re being paid or there’s some sort of, “prize reward” at the end. This goes back to paid, earned, and owned media. If a brand can earn recognition without having to pay for it, that’s the holy grail. What causes people to share? Let’s find out.

Principle 1: Social Currency

Social currency is the influence a consumer has over his/her/their peers. Word-of-mouth is the goal here. It’s free and with word-of-mouth the potential consumer is being informed by a trusted, personal source. Three ways to gain social currency are by: talking about remarkable things- things that are worth making a remark about, leveraging game mechanics, and by making people feel like insiders. Cue Gossip Girl voice. Game mechanics uses, “doing better than others” as social currency. It gives you bragging rights and boosts engagement.

Principle 2: Triggers

Triggers are any stimuli that prompt people to think about a product or service. For example, when you think of the first day of school you might think of new notebooks and highlighters. Or when you think of peanut butter you might think of jelly. An even more fascinating example is the thirsty percent spike in Mars candy sales in 2004. The Mars rover touched down on Mars (the planet) in 2004 and that was enough to subconsciously influence the minds of consumers.

Rituals are things that are done regularly like eating breakfast or drinking coffee in the morning.

The best triggers just might be the ones that are associated with a ritual.

Another way to trigger thought about a product or service is to piggyback. Piggybacking is when a brand takes a ritual that is already associated with another product and attaches themselves to it. Example: Have a KitKat with coffee. Now when the consumer is triggered to think about coffee based on their daily ritual, they’ll now think about KitKats too.

Poison parasite is another method of creating triggers for the consumer. This method copies traditional imagery (for instance) and associates it with something else. Example: Take the Marlboro cowboys and associate it with emphysema. Now when the consumer sees this imagery they might stop to think of the anti-smoking campaign rather than reaching for their Marlboros in confidence.

Principle 3: Emotion

Implement emotion and practice focusing on feeling rather than function. Some popular emotions to hone in on are:

As depicted above, awe is the best emotion to aim for with social campaigns. Awe is described as wonder or amazement inspired by sublimity, great knowledge, beauty, or might. If you want to be inspired, consider checking out Google’s Year in Search series. Here’s the one from last year: Google – Year in Search 2019.

Principle 4: Public

To implement the principle of public, design products or initiatives that advertise themselves. There are a few ways to do this. One way is to make the private, public. An example of this is growing a sympathy beard. Another way is to make usage observable. An example of this is the yellow Livestrong band which serves as a social object.

Principle 5: Practical Value

Craft useful content to implement practical value. Note, the most viral content is created by adolescents. Practical value add is a way to get content shared even if it isn’t incredibly young and “hip.” People like to share practical, useful information. Passing along useful information strengthens social bonds.

Principle 6: Stories

The best way to exercise this principle is to make the message so integral to the narrative that the story can’t be told without it. Some of the best stories involve the audience. If it’s all about the consumer then they will care more. Let’s face it, humans can be pretty self-important. Underdog stories are also highly successful. Practical jokes and shock value can help with storytelling as well. And lastly, “people don’t remember plots, they remember characters.”

Bonus: Useful Terms

Immediate word-of-mouth is when information is shared quickly.
Ongoing word-of-mouth involves continuous sharing that lasts weeks or months.
The psychology of imitation says people follow what other people do because of social proof and acceptance. This is the reason why street musicians and baristas put a couple bucks in the tip jar to give the impression that others have already donated. The Asch Conformity Experiment is also a great example of how humans operate. 

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