The marketing landscape is changing dramatically. Facebook and the other major social platforms are transforming from merely “social networks” to massive multi-functional juggernauts of communication and influence. Brands know it. I know it. You know it. The most effective way to reach audiences of increasingly wide demographics is through content that is made to be shareable on these platforms.
How Things Have Changed
For a little bit of perspective on how much things have changed in the past 10 years, here’s a reminder of what Facebook looked like circa 2005:
It was all about sharing who you are: where you go to school, what books and music you like, etc. This part of its function hasn’t actually changed all that much.
My Facebook feed today looks vastly different than it did in the early days. Back then we were writing on each other’s walls. Today, I primarily see two kinds of content: first, what I am tempted to call, “shouts into the abyss.” These are personal statements to no one in particular. “SO excited for X!!!” “SO mad at Y!!!,” etc.
Then there are the pieces of shareable content. These are the articles, videos, and/or memes that people find important, endearing, and/or enraging, and feel compelled to share with their friends and followers. Ultimately, social platforms have become highly sophisticated tools for individualization. It’s this behavior that marketers must recognize and act on.
Social sharing is the new word of mouth. And with so many people and brands creating a constant firehose of information, the half-life of social content is surprisingly short. Every time someone reposts a piece of your content, you’re seeing its potentially very short life extended.
The Motivation to Share
People share content for all kinds of reasons but ultimately it’s part of our constant search for meaning and belonging. We want to assert our opinions while simultaneously belonging to a group of like-minded people. When someone posts about a brand or product I like, I feel a tinge of recognition/excitement/camaraderie. The desire to belong is hardwired, you just have to be a brand worth belonging to.
That desire isn’t going away, nor are social platforms that encourage sharing. In fact, sharing is an integral part of many of the fastest growing platforms. Pinterest was the fastest growing platform of 2014. The previously female-dominated platform saw a huge growth in male users as well, proving it’s not a niche network.
It works by users creating topical “boards” that they fill with “pins,” like an electronic bulletin board. You can pin anything you want, from images to blog posts. And you don’t have to own it to pin it. It allows users to express themselves by building their own visual persona while brands find their champions in an organic way. Brands who are creating content that is available for and encourages sharing are better equipped to reach their audiences where they spend most of their time, on social networks and/or on their phones.
From a brand’s perspective the incentive to create shareable content should be clear. Not only do you extend the life of your content but if it’s shared by the right person, you also reach a new audience that is likely to be receptive. So, how can you create content that is easily shareable? Stay tuned for some tips on how to create content that your brand advocates will want to share.
Image credit: CC by Ben Grey