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What makes people share?

There is a science behind what makes people share and as social media success really does rely on people sharing your content, it’s important to create the right type of content. There is a simply great book on the subject called Contagious: Why Things Catch on by Jonah Berger. Berger is a Wharton professor and it’s a fabulous read that will totally blow your mind about just what the vital ingredients are. Consider the following, and decide which elements you think make the most sense to your audience and how you can create something worth sharing.

Social currency

People love to share things that make them look good. They like to look smart, funny and in the know. That might be by using gamification (making something game-like) or by being the first to have seen a video or to answer a question. That feeling of a little smugness, I suppose, and we are probably all guilty of it at some time.


We talk about things that are top of mind or topical, and so using a reminder that keeps an idea about your brand in people’s heads really works. What is it that makes people think about your product or idea? Are you a pizza restaurant and Saturday night reminds people that it’s pizza night? Or how about when you have a morning coffee you think about having a KitKat? Saturday and coffee are both triggers in these cases.


When we care, we share. Think of all the YouTube videos or images you have shared in the past and look at what it was that made you share them. No doubt there will have been emotion involved; maybe something made you laugh heartily, made you angry or sad, or feel totally in awe. Whatever it was, it altered your pulse rate, which in turn makes you inevitable pass it on. What can fire people up about your product or service?


Built to show, built to grow. Can others see when someone has consumed your product? For example, if you have an iPhone or iPad and you send emails firm them, there will be a default message at the bottom of each saying ‘sent from my iPhone’. This is public advertising and sharing without you even thinking about it, as well as a little bit of showing off that you own a smartphone. Each time you send an email, you are doing the advertising for Apple products – how can someone else do the same for you?

Practical value

News you can use. If you come across something really useful or helpful, you will more than likely share it with your friends. It might be advice on unruly teenagers, money-saving tips, healthy-eating recipes or how to make the perfect exploding volcano model. Whatever it is, useful get shares. What problem does your product or service solve for others? That is what you need to focus your message on, then find a medium to deliver it.


Stories are easy to remember and pass on. If you can dress your message up in a true story rather than a bunch of facts and figures, it will become more memorable. The trick here is also to find a way to incorporate your brand and make people remember it. Think of great series of ads like the Oxo stock cube lady and her family – those 42 ads ran for 16 years and the family became a part of many British households.

The countdown grocery chain ran similar ads with a fictitious family called the Colemans, which also ran for many years, keeping the Countdown brand in many homes, both on TV and online. What Trojan horse ideas can you use to get your product known?

Rules of engagement

It is important to set some guidelines as to what can and can’t be said on the various sites, and it is up to you to how detailed you want to document to be. The guidelines can be simple and include the following:

  • Never swear.
  • Never bring the company into disrepute.
  • Never badmouth the competition.
  • Never argue with another company.
  • Deal with all complaints as if the complainants were standing front of you.
  • Don’t shout in capital letters.

There are plenty of social media policy examples available online and some for purchase, so take a look at what others have done and what you feel is appropriate for your business. While you want to make sure everything is covered, you don’t want to go over the top.

Ref: Marketing with Social Media: 10 Easy Steps to Success for Business, Linda Coles (2015)

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