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Why Do People Share Social Media Content?

Have you ever used a tool like HubSpot's Social Media Inbox or Buffer to schedule social media posts? If so, you may have noticed something interesting about the numbers for your clicks and interactions: they make no sense!

What do I mean by that? Have you ever published something and then noticed that even though no one clicked the link, two people favorited it and someone retweeted it?

There are a lot of reasons why this happens. Some are very reasonable, and some require further explanation.

It could be that someone read the content previously and your tweet was a cue to pass it along. Maybe someone favorited the tweet as a reminder to come back and read it later.

But something more interesting could be going on.

Like what?

The truth is that a lot of people forward along something that looks like it might be interesting without reading it. 

Last week, I tweeted a link to an article with the headline "If You're Fat, You've Only Got Yourself to Blame." I tweeted it because it is not true. I disagreed with the viewpoint and the sentiment and the way that the content of the article puts people down that do not deserve to be put down.

Someone retweeted me. But they did not click the link. I speculate that what happened was that they clicked the body of my tweet to expand it and look at the Twitter card, which offers the title and metadata for the post and they drew a conclusion about the content of the article based on that. They then chose to forward it along presumably because they, like me, disagreed with the viewpoint.


Why do people share content on social media?

A professor and researcher named Jonah Berger conducted various studies about what makes people share content, which were summed up in this January New Yorker article. Berger says there are a handful of things that make people want to share an article, video, or infographic with their friends, such as:

I've also added a handful of my own, some of which tangentially relate to the four qualities that Berger highlights:

  • Anchoring: Does it relate to your community or organization directly? Forwarding along this content isn't just self-promotional, it also reinforces your personal brand, as you're tying yourself to something with an established identity.
  • Reciprocity: If someone interacts with you, it's more likely that you'll interact with them. That includes sharing content, so if you like, favorite, retweet, etc. someone's post, they may do the same for you. And on Facebook, these interactions even make it more likely that another person will see your next update.
  • Self-esteem: Does sharing this content somehow make you feel better about yourself or increase your self-perception? Being tied to a charitable cause, to inspirational content, or "passing it forward" helps others, but it also helps you feel good about yourself.

What other reasons can you think of for sharing social media content? What keeps you coming back to your favorite social media channel? What makes you want to pass along something you've read or retweet someone's link to an article or video?

Join The Conversation

  • benwachtel24's picture
    Apr 28 Posted 3 years ago benwachtel24

    Completely agree, Eugenio. And as more and more brands use inbound marketing, there's just a lot of noise out there - everyone wants their content read, but with so much of it out there, it's so hard to sort through the mess of poor content to find the truly insightful and original thinking. And you're welcome - glad you found it interesting! I just started publishing here, so excited to have gotten such great feedback on my first article.

  • socialengaged's picture
    Apr 28 Posted 3 years ago socialengaged

    Thanks for writing Ben. I believe we re forced to write and share content over content, making the web a complete mess sometimes.. The visual era of images and infographics it's a solution, but you would need words anyway if you want to rank for ur great content.. no words, no rankings, as Google implicitly says :)

    Thanks again for your great article!

    Eugenio (SEO)

  • benwachtel24's picture
    Apr 28 Posted 3 years ago benwachtel24

    I sort of feel the same way, Eugenio. I just think there's so much content out there (and a lot of it really is great!) that people don't have time during the day to read every interesting article they come across, but we've been trained by Facebook and Twitter to pass along anything that our networks may find to be helpful. And the way that associating ourselves with this valuable content helps our reputation makes it that much easier to forward along something we haven't really read carefully (or at all). Thanks for reading, and for the feedback!

  • benwachtel24's picture
    Apr 28 Posted 3 years ago benwachtel24

    Thanks for the comment, Paige! I do the same thing - either it was SO insightful that I felt like I had to share it with my network, or I want to be able to come back to it a few days later when something I learned from it suddenly becomes relevant in my life and I want to be able to refer back to it. Though I will admit that I've shared articles I didn't read thouroughly because I trust the writer or the site it came from and hope someone else will find it to be helpful!

  • socialengaged's picture
    Apr 27 Posted 3 years ago socialengaged

    Not many people read articles anymore, they just like to like it or +1 it so that others could see it, or so that they themselves think they read the article even if they just liked it .. hard times for bloggers nowadays :) 

    Eugenio | Agenzia SEO 

  • Apr 27 Posted 3 years ago Paige Nearhood

    Most often, I share or retweet something for one of two reasons: I concur and find validity or it serves as a bookmarking tool so that I can return at a later time.


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