Social media marketing is a powerful way for brands to get their message in front of customers on a regular basis. It’s also a great way to generate leads and increase sales. But, if you want your content to be seen and shared on social media, it needs to be interesting and valuable.
We’ve all seen social media posts that suddenly went viral and were shared with millions of people across the internet. Some of them were even created by companies or brands, including these:
- The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
- Metro Trains' Dumb Ways to Die
- TOMS One Day #WithoutShoes Campaign
- Worldwide Breast Cancer’s #KnowYourLemons Campaign
- National Geographic's #PlanetOrPlastic Campaign
The National Geographic #PlanetOrPlastic campaign is one good example of engaging brand content that went viral.
Beyond these viral campaigns, what makes content likely to be shared by your target audience? How can you create content they think is worth engaging with or sharing?
If you’re like many marketers, creating engagement is one of your top challenges with your social media content.
Common reasons people share content on social media
The motivation behind sharing content on social media platforms varies from person to person. If you want to create successful social media marketing campaigns, it helps to understand why people share different types of content.
Some common motivations people have for sharing on social media platforms include:
1. To be helpful and share knowledge
Some people share content to inform, amuse and help others. For 94% of us, that’s the main reason for sharing on social media, according to a New York Times survey.
2. To define who they are
Letting others know who they are and what they care about is a motivation for at least 68% of people who share content online. For many people, using social media is a way to create a personal brand or express opinions.
3. To stay close to friends and family
People also share content on social media to keep in touch with others and build stronger connections. The NYT’s research uncovered that a big motivation for people who share content online is to connect with other people with similar interests and to stay in touch with old friends.
4. To feel more fulfilled
People share content because it makes them feel more involved in the world around them. Sharing content is one way to feel as if you are making a difference or involved in your community.
5. To support favorite causes or brands
People express their support for causes and ideas they believe in by sharing content online.
What types of content get shared?
Videos are six times more likely to be retweeted than posts with images, and three times more likely to be retweeted than gifs. Tweets with images get shared 150% more often than those that are only text.
Different types of posts stimulate likes, shares, and comments on social media. The type of post that gets the most engagement on social media is typically one that is both personal and relatable.
- Personal stories that are not too long (or too short) tend to get a lot of engagement. How can you adapt stories to your brand's own content strategy? Consider telling background stories, customer success stories, or founder stories that provide context your audience can relate to.
- Humor and memes, of course, rank among the types of content that get the most engagement, including shares. But creating humorous content that strikes the right balance between wit and entertainment without crossing a line can be a tricky endeavor. Still, when it’s done well, it often “wins the internet.”
- Articles. One of the most popular types of content that gets engagement and shares on social media is articles. This can include blogs, news, and “round-up” or opinion posts. Everything from how-to posts to top-10 lists help you generate traffic and gather eyeballs for your content.
- Videos are increasingly the most popular type of content on social media. From Facebook/Instagram Reels to YouTube or TikTok videos, this is a format you can’t ignore. Be sure to keep in mind the specific file size, aspect ratio, and length limits on various platforms. For example, native Twitter (uploaded) videos are limited to 2 minutes and 20 seconds and support aspect ratios between 1:1 and 2:1 (but a square format performs best).
- Infographics are another type of content that is frequently shared on social media. These data-rich visualizations of interesting facts, figures and key points are a compelling way to educate, inform and build brand awareness.
- Interactive content, such as quizzes, polls or games, is still among the type of content most frequently shared on social media.
Top reasons for sharing
An Ipsos study revealed several interesting takeaways about why people share:
- 61% of people worldwide will share “interesting things”.
- 43% of people will share things that they feel are “important” or “funny”.
- 30% of global users indicated they shared content to recommend a product, service or movie.
- 29% shared something "to support a cause, an organization or a belief".
- 26% will share "unique things".
- 22% want "to let others know what I'm doing".
Sharing differences by country
The same study showed that while the top reason for sharing content in nearly all countries surveyed was “important things,” it wasn’t the case in Saudi Arabia. There, the top reason (65%) reported for sharing something on social media was to let “others know what I believe in and who I really am.”
That answer also ranked highly in Brazil, where 60% agreed. Comparatively, only 37% of the rest of the world said this was their top reason for sharing.
The survey also showed some regional differences in the willingness to share “interesting” content. That reason topped the list in China, Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey, whereas it was at the bottom of the list in Japan, Germany and Saudi Arabia.
In Sweden, people are most likely to share “interesting” things and least likely to share “to show I’m in the know.” That might not surprise anyone who knows Swedes don’t like to brag (even if they are the Capital of Scandinavia). Turkey is the most likely to share information for that reason (33%).
Create shareable content
If you’re looking for help or inspiration in creating social media content for your brand, reach out to UP for support. Have a question? Leave a comment below, or feel free to ask me.