The Simple Secret of Why People Share Your Content (or don’t share it)


I don’t remember having to look for which social stream button to click the first time I saw Charlie Bit My Finger.

I just shared the link instinctively.

Yet brands, desperate to make a connection, strategically research and place these icons where they deem most effective.

Exactly how many places on my website landscape are there to place social media sharing buttons?

Should we place icon links in the right column, the left column, above the post, after the post, header, footer, or within the post itself?

If the content is crap it makes no difference where a share button is located.

I won’t follow, friend, or share.

But, if the content is unbelievably magical (or awesome) and it connects to me on some level — BAM, I’ll scramble, scrounge and search for a button to push.


Because I want to promote your page? no.

Because I hope to get others to follow your brand? uh, nope.

Because there’s great value and wisdom in this post for everyone? you’d think, huh?

Still not it.

People share great content because it makes them look ______ (fill in the blank)

  • good
  • smart
  • controversial
  • connected
  • funny
  • insightful
  • a go-to resource
  • or whatever

That’s it. That’s the special sauce.

In fact, readers will only share this Social Fresh post if I, in some way, help them and make them look like a genius. Which, of course, I’m trying to do here.

This is nothing new. In fact, back in 1966 Ernest Dichter’s study on Word of Mouth reveals 64% of sharing is about the sharer, themselves, desiring to:

  • gain attention
  • show they have inside info
  • help
  • reach out
  • show friendship
  • show humor
  • provide information

Only 33% has anything to do with the actual product or brand experience.

In addition, a study at the University of Pennsylvania surmises that sharing creates an emotional communion.

You and I share primarily out of our own self interest.

So if every viral video, whitepaper, slideshare, or review is shared because, on some level, it says something about the individual, than it’s on me to create content that effectively causes my audience to appear favorable in the eyes of both themselves and their peers.

My strategy should not be about my brand, or my widget, or even me.

The goal is to cause followers to feel powerful… about themselves.

And as I make others look good – my brand, widget, and I all look very good too.

Yes, we all love watching Charlie getting his finger bit. But, in truth, someone first shared this video with me because they wanted me to appreciate their sense of humor; or relate to them as a parent, knowing I’m a parent; or at least they wanted to make me aware of this particular video going viral. Upon which, I then went on to share Charlie with my network for my own personal motivations too.

Obviously Charlie’s not the most direct example of your brand’s efforts to gain social traction. However, the point of empowering an audience with content they feel inspired to share is. Does your content spark curiosity? Can your brand be funny? Will your blog post inspire? Is your tweet educating?

Is your content valuable to the audience you desire?

On one level, this may seem like you’re feeding people’s narcissism. However, on another level, your brand has an incredible opportunity to generously serve and help others. And it’s this very perspective that makes all the difference in how your content is perceived.

If you connect often enough your content creates trust, loyalty, purchasing power, and ongoing evangelism.

And should this theory stand true, cheeky as it may be, you may desire to share this new-found revelation out of your own generosity, inspiring others while revealing your own brilliance… if so, there should be a share button around here somewhere.


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