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Why Do People Share, Like and Favourite on Social Media?

People like to interact with content. In a single minute, we send out 347,000 tweets; like 4,166,667 pieces of content on Facebook; like 1,736,111 photos on Instagram; and upload 300 hours of new video on YouTube.

Image source: DOMO.com

Given that psychology has always been interested in finding answers to questions of why we behave the way we do, it wouldn’t be wrong to also apply it to social media actions. Thus, why do people like, share and interact with online content from a psychological perspective?

To convey their identity

People devote about 30–40% of all speech to talking about themselves. Online, that number soars to about 80% of social media posts.

Furthermore, a study conducted by The New York Times has revealed that 68% of respondents share to give people a better sense of who they are and what they care about. Thus, people might endorse a political campaign to represent their views, a funny video to convey their sense of humor, or a movie trailer to express their cinematographic taste.

Still, psychologist Carl Rogers warns, that what people share, like, retweet or favourite may not represent their true self but their ideal self. He believes that we are constantly pursuing behaviours that bring us closer to our ideal self. Therefore, the content that we share may very well represent the person that we want the world to see and not the person that we truly are.

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Nevertheless, people are known for buying  and acquiring things that convey who they are (or who they want to be). In that sense, brands represent a huge part of who their consumers are. Therefore, finding that key element that consumers can identify with is mandatory for brands’ success, be it online or offline. Of course the online environment and especially social media intensifies this sense of identity and ultimately of belonging to a certain group that shares the same tastes, views, opinions, etc.   

To maintain and enrich relationships

The biggest reason why people share has to do with other people: 78% of people say they share because it helps them to stay connected to people.

By liking, sharing or favoriting each other’s posts, we maintain and add value to our relationships. There is also a reciprocity effect involved, in the sense that we feel we should give something back to people who have given to us. How many times have you liked a post because that friend always likes yours? It happens to me quite often 🙂

Social media provides an easy and convenient way to stay in touch with friends when time doesn’t allow you to meet with them in person. We oftentimes share content that we see as benefiting a friend or a group of friends or that has relevance to a relationship.


The power of commenting

Relevant social media conversations and interactions need to be based upon a set of shared values and beliefs. Otherwise, they’re meaningless conversations.  

Since 85% of us read other people’s responses on a topic to better understand and process information, it means that comments sometimes have the power to change our minds. Otherwise put, any comment about a brand, service (and even person) anywhere online, can help readers determine whether it’s good or bad. It doesn’t have to be based upon facts, it just needs to appear somewhere.

That’s how our brains work and it definitely poses a great deal of challenges because it’s literally impossible to annihilate all negative comments out there. Thus, it’s mandatory to be engaged in the comments section on your blog and on social media and moderate conversations whenever necessary.

To get an incentive

Yes, many people share content to receive something in return. You know those “Like & Share” contests on Facebook? That’s exactly what they do. A study showed that 67% of users who “liked” a brand page on Facebook did so simply to become eligible for special offers. Therefore, you may not get a Like if you don’t offer something in return.

Bottom line, if you want your content to be shared, liked, retweeted, etc. it needs to create a sense of identity, add value for consumers and, if possible, provide some sort of incentive. Also, remember to always rely on Psychology to better understand what triggers an emotional response and what doesn’t. It might be the key to viral content!

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