Effective Social Marketing Begins With Understanding Why Customers Share Content
There is a great deal of influence that a single individual can have on the success or failure of a brand, and understanding why customers are moved to share content with other members of their social network can be especially helpful to marketers. As much as marketing is an art form, it is also incredibly valuable to gather insights from the sciences as they relate to the role of the biological, environmental, social, and technological phenomena and their impact in the way an individual perceives and interacts with a brand’s campaign. There are a number of factors at play, including:
- Craving for dopamine
- Need for social identity
- Evolution of decision-making processes
A Day in the Life
Social media plays a significant role in the days of many people. It is not uncommon for an individual to interact with social media throughout every part of their day. It may begin with a simple and inane “selfie” that includes a common weather event that is then commented on and re-tweeted by friends. It will continue at work with following a link posted on a friend’s Facebook profile, which is then, of course, liked and shared. Finally, LinkedIn may actually lead to the sharing — via email — of a beneficial article that relates to work.
This relatively typical day demonstrates just how important it is to maintain a strong social media presence. Every individual is driven to behave in a certain way based on a number of different phenomena, and understanding that phenomena is vital for effective social marketing.
The Role of Biological, Environmental, Social, and Technological Phenomena
Understanding the role that these phenomena play in the average person’s day can influence the social marketing strategy of a company. There are deep reasons why people interact with social media and social marketing campaigns, and it is up to marketers to find out how to best take advantage. Understanding social decision-making begins with understanding the following:
- Social theory
- Evolutionary biology
Impossible to Ignore the Influence of Dopamine
There is a major benefit to posting on social media, one that researchers have studied at length: Dopamine. According to research conducted in 2010, 80 percent of all social media posts were some sort of announcement relating to an individual’s immediate experience. This fact led Harvard researchers to study the impact of such self-disclosure on the brain.
The result of the study? These sorts of disclosures — while seemingly inane and pointless – have an impact on the reward center of the brain. So, anytime someone discloses something about their day or experiences through social media, they get a reward in the form of a shot of dopamine, which is the same chemical that is released through food, sex, and exercise. In essence, these disclosures give social media users pleasure, which they of course seek time and time again.
Social Psychology and Self-Creation
It is important to view the act of sharing a piece of marketing as an act of self-creation in order to fully understand why people share the content that they do. Marketing researchers have wisely viewed sharing through the lens of identity theory. There are several factors that play a role in the motivation to share marketing content, including:
- Practical value
- Emotional power
- Entertainment value
When marketing content meets these criteria, it is much more likely to be shared among consumers, who view the act of sharing as a creative form of self-expression.
The research conducted on this has found that people are more likely to share things that they associate with their concept of themselves, especially when the product being marketed is within a product category with which they identify. Not only that, but there is also another shot of dopamine that is released from this, as it is still the sharing of an immediate experience.
The Reward of Altruism
The other motivation for sharing marketing content relates to altruism. This is why someone would be motivated to share a LinkedIn article with co-workers. And since it is another immediate experience, there is yet another shot of dopamine that is released due to the sharing.
According to “The Neuroscience of Social Decision-Making,” the trait that is most uniquely human is the willingness to engage in altruistic behavior. Humans are the only ones who cooperate with others even when there is no immediate reward. Therefore, sharing is done for the sake of sharing, with no reward for doing so. Well, except for the fact that researchers found that sharing with no expectation of reward actually does have a reward: Dopamine.
The act of helping co-workers by sharing a relevant article is not only good for those with whom the article is shared, but also for the person sharing the article. Understanding this influence is extremely beneficial for marketers, but it is also necessary to understand how to apply these concepts.
How Marketers Can Apply and Benefit From These Concepts
While it is undeniably important to understand how to target marketing to the proper demographic, it is equally important that marketers understand why people share the content that they do, and what they get out of doing so. This does not mean that big data, software, and split testing should be thrown out, but rather incorporated into the understanding of why people interact with content the way that they do.
Social media is changing marketing in a major way, and in a lot of ways it is not yet possible to fully understand the future direction of social marketing. The context of the brand-customer relationship is changing, and it is therefore important for marketers to change as well.
Every interaction involving social media gives people the opportunity to release more dopamine, which is an obviously powerful chemical that motivates a number of human behaviors. These interactions are incredibly important to individuals, as they help shape personal identity, help others, and of course, reward the sharers with dopamine.
So, instead of trying to sell products through social media, marketers should instead try to help people and give them a great deal of personal satisfaction. This helps to build trust with customers, who in turn develop loyalty to a brand and become strong advocates for that brand.