One of the keys to success on social media is getting content shared. Getting content shared means it gets in front of more eyeballs, and is likely to attract more customers to the business by pulling them in. It can be hard for marketers to know how to do this, after years of simply broadcasting the messages that they want to at their customers. It is the dream of most savvy social media marketers to get their content to go viral. That means that a phenomenal number of customers will see their content and will be engaging with it. Storytelling can be achieved through posts on Facebook or Twitter, videos, blog posts and infographics, as well as photographs. Understanding what can be done to get customers to want to share these content items is important.
“When you are creating content it’s important to be mindful of what the motivation of your audience is”.
The motivation to which he refers is the motivation to share content. Uganec notes that a New York Times Insights Group reported on a study that discovered these motivations, and found them to be primarily linked to people wanting to be able to build relationships with one another. This meant that motivations for sharing included bringing content to others that was entertaining and valuable, helping to define who we are by what we share, grow and build on relationships, and spread the word about important causes and brands for that person. Uganec says that this means that for every single item of content posted, businesses need to ask themselves what value it adds to the target audience. If it will help them or entertain them they may be likely to share it. If not, they probably will not.
But sharing has an even deeper psychological context that needs to be understood as well. Uganec reports on a study published in the journal Psychological Science in 2011 which showed the psychological reason for why people share. It was found that people share because they are aroused to do so by emotional stimuli resulting from looking at some item of content. The reasons for getting stimulated to share were reported in yet another study that Uganec describes. The reasons for sharing were found to be if a story aroused any of the following: awe, amusing, moving, illuminating, inspiring, shocking, cute, sex, fear, anger and controversy.
Interestingly, as Uganec points out, the types of responses that promote sharing are either positive or negative. For example, shocking, fear and anger are negative, while awe, inspiring and illuminating are very positive responses. Working on either side of this coin will help businesses to be able to get their content shared far and wide. Uganec explains:
“It’s up to us about which side we want to propagate…. If you want to create a long-standing powerful brand you should be telling a positive story. Focus on stories that place your customer in the role of the hero”.
There are some important guidelines that Uganec has prepared for using this psychology to enable the sharing of stories via social media. The first is that the audience’s main motivation needs to be understood, and organisations need to understand that this is not just to connect with the brand, but also to connect with other friends and contact. The second step is to tell a story. The third is to make sure that you have credibility so that customers trust what you are saying. The fourths step is to keep the message straightforward and simple. The fifth is to make sure that the story includes action that will appeal to positive emotions like awe, amusement or inspiration. The final important step is to “embed a sense of urgency”.
This all might seem a bit difficult and overwhelming, but remember that we all communicate with each other by telling stories each and every day. This is what we as people do. You do know how to tell stories. You do it all of the time. All you now need to do as a marketer is learn how to adapt that skill to tell stories to customers that appeal to their positive motivations for sharing, and you’ll have viral content before you can say “once upon a time”.
Paula Newton is a business writer, editor and management consultant with extensive experience writing and consulting for both start-ups and long established companies. She has ten years management and leadership experience gained at BSkyB in London and Viva Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, giving her a depth of insight into innovation in international business. With an MBA from the University of Hull and many years of experience running her own business consultancy, Paula’s background allows her to connect with a diverse range of clients, including cutting edge technology and web-based start-ups but also multinationals in need of assistance. Paula has played a defining role in shaping organizational strategy for a wide range of different organizations, including for-profit, NGOs and charities. Paula has also served on the Board of Directors for the South American Explorers Club in Quito, Ecuador.