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The Reason People Search for Content is Different than Why they Share it on Social Social Media [UML]

Sometimes contrast is better than comparison because it advances our understanding of marketing and communication channels.  Contrast clarifies the motivational differences between search and social.

We search for content that is useful.  We share content that is interesting or entertaining.

This concept is important to understand because these two channels typically are among the top sources of traffic and online visibility for organizations.

“Search is an explicit expression of need or want,” according to Lee Odden in his book Optimize.  It’s an especially keen and timeless insight because example after example have demonstrated it’s true.

Search is a form of a question…which is why answering customer questions is a sound strategy for content marketing.

By contrast, we share content on social media when it’s convenient for us, says to Steve Plunkett. He has poured tequila for an audience to illustrate his point in presentations.

Recently research by Fractl and others reinforces this idea, and so social sharing is the theme for this week’s three Unscripted Marketing links. All three are well worth reading thoroughly.

1) The Science of Viral Content

Search Fills Different Needs than Social Sharing-emotion

An emotional connection is critical in marketing and it’s a part that doesn’t come through in typical features and benefits discussion in corporate marketing.  Yet if a brand wants content to move online, there are three winning emotional combinations, writes Kerry Jones.

Those emotions are:

a) surprise and happiness:

“Content that pairs happiness and surprise makes people feel good, while showing them something they didn’t expect or have never seen before. This uplifting emotional experience is what makes people share positive content.”

b) anger or excitement:

“High-arousal emotions elicit commenting behavior, so if you want people talking about your content, incorporate arousing emotions like anger and excitement.”

c) sadness with surprise and admiration:

“Content that doesn’t ignite high arousal tends to do well when it includes an unexpected twist or an element of admiration.”

This is related to Jonah Berger’s findings in his book on viral marketing called Contagious.

Also see: Viral Marketing: The Hope, Hype and Helplessness  

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2) What Motivates People to Share on Facebook

Search Fills Different Needs than Social Sharing-facebook

More than any other reason, people share content on Facebook they think their friends will find interesting, according to this report by Kimberlee Morrison:

“Content marketing agency Fractl surveyed more than 2,000 Facebook users to uncover the motivation behind their sharing habits. 48 percent of respondents to the Fractl survey said they shared content to entertain their friends, while 17 percent shared to express themselves on issues they cared about. Only 11 percent of people said they preferred to share something because it was useful.”

If there’s room for interpretation, I’d suggest it’s not just what our friends will find interesting, but what we think will make us look interesting to our friends by virtue of sharing.  In other words, people want to share things that reflect well on themselves.

Also see: Fear: Why Smart People Avoid Social Media  

3) Should You Use Hashtags on Facebook?

Search Fills Different Needs than Social Sharing-hashtags

Hashtags are a means for people or groups of people to coalesce around a given topic or idea –  #PR or #contentmarketing are two I peruse on Twitter, for example. So social media marketers that want to foster more sharing on Facebook, ought to use hashtags there too.

It’s a “flawed theory” writes Andrew Hutchinson in this piece for Social Media Today.  He cites data from BuzzSumo, Buffer and others to demonstrate – and references one simple conclusion drawn by Buffer’s Kevan Lee:

“Facebook posts without a hashtag fare better than those with a hashtag.”

Also see: Infographic: Navigating Facebook Organic Reach

* * *

We search when we need something. We share when it’s convenient.  These are good concepts to keep in mind when optimizing content for search and social.

What observations or research stands out for you in social sharing?

Want 10x from your PR agency?  Today it requires skills that blend earned, owned, paid and shared media.  Sword and the Script Media, LLC delivers seven services including PR and content marketing that deliver results. Contact us today to set up a time to discuss your marketing needs and goals.

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Photo credit: Flickr, Lena, SHARING (CC BY 2.0)

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