When ‘sharing’ loses its value
Sharing items of interest can help build a social media presence but at what point does sharing start to have a negative effect? asks Internet psychologist Graham Jones
Sharing is an everyday occurrence online. I suspect you will share at least one link with someone else today and each day you probably recommend things on Twitter or Facebook, for instance. Sharing is all around you. But therein lies the problem; so much material is being shared that we are drowning in links, Tweets and suggestions as to what we should click on.
There is little point in sharing things if people do not find them useful. All that does is waste your time, potentially annoy people and ultimately is completely pointless. The only things worth sharing are what make other people go “wow” or “that’s interesting” or which they find appealing in some way.
One thing they will not find of value is material they already know about. The way the Internet currently works means that the stuff that most people share is the stuff that most people already know about. The whole concept of “counters” which show you how often something has been shared encourages people to share it. After all, we reason, if so many people have already shared it, then it must be worthwhile. The problem is if so many people have already shared it, then the people we are sending the item to will already know about it. And that doesn’t make it appealing.
When sharing things, don’t share stuff other people have already shared. That’s boring; your contacts will already know about it and your message will just be perceived as unnecessary. Instead, share things that are only rarely shared, or which have not been shared at all. Find unique, exclusive, rare content which will make your messages and social media activity start to shine out.
The next issue with sharing is making sure that you only share material that has emotional triggers. Research shows that the most shared type of content online – way out in the lead ahead of everything else is funny stuff. Sharing humorous videos or funny stories is bound to grab the attention of the people you are trying to connect with. That’s because it triggers a positive emotion.
Similarly, you can stimulate those “goodness me” emotions when you share statistics or data that makes people go “that’s amazing”.
If you want people to notice what you are sharing, make sure it is the kind of material that will make their eyes open wide. The content that does that is the amazing, surprising or the shocking kind of thing they have not experienced before.
Finally, when it comes to sharing, the most important factor of all is sharing stuff that has a deep personal connection with the people you are sending it to. That means you need a deep understanding of your audience to make sure you only send out links that have direct personal relevance. Sharing something on the basis that it “might” interest the recipient is a dead give-away that you do not really know what they would be interested in – and that’s a signal that you don’t care about them that much.
So if you want your shared items to be noticed, you could Tweet less, send out fewer messages on Facebook or LinkedIn, but be sure to send out the amazing, shocking, or funny content that is directly relevant to your audience. That will get you noticed much more than sending out Tweet after Tweet, which could start to annoy people.