Why We Share: How to Tap Into the Consumer Psyche to Drive Social Advocacy

We’re human; therefore, we share. From cave paintings of the prehistoric era to the social networks we update daily, the desire to connect with others—spreading information and ideas along the way—has been deeply embedded in the human psyche since the beginning of time. 

While the act of sharing is not new, the rise of social media has created a fundamental shift in the way we share content and ideas, and the consumer/brand dynamic has changed forever. Word of mouth (WOM) marketing is more prevalent than ever, consumer recommendations are expected in the purchase path, and the organizations that understand what motivates advocacy—empowering customers to market for them—are winning the race. But what is it, exactly, that motivates consumers to share in the first place?

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The 5 Core Motivations for Sharing 

The New York Times, in a study conducted with Latitude Research, offered a roundup of the five core human wants/needs that spur sharing: 

1. To bring valuable/entertaining content to others
49% (of respondents) say sharing allows them to inform others of products they care about and potentially change opinions or encourage action 

2. To define ourselves to others
68% share to give people a better sense of who they are and what they care about

3. To grow/nourish our relationships
78% share information online because it lets them stay connected to people they may not otherwise stay in touch with

4. Self-fulfillment 
69% share information because it allows them to feel more involved in the world 

5. To get the word out about causes or brands
84% share because it is a way to support causes or issues they care about

Which motivating factors are most applicable to your customers? The answer is all of the above. By giving consumers the tools to realize any of these core motivations, you’re setting them up to satisfy their own inherent needs, promoting your brand in the process.

Where They Share (and Why)

At what point in the purchase path are visitors most likely to share? When they first hit your homepage? Land on a curated deal page or gift center? Navigate to a specific product listing? Finding the sweet spot comes with understanding when a consumer is most engaged with your brand. 

While we’re strong believers in experimenting with sharing functionality throughout the shopping experience, a site visitor is never more engaged than after they’ve converted, or completed a transaction on your site. At this point, a customer has already identified a need/want, done research, compared products/vendors, and made a decision to place their trust (and hard-earned dollars) in your hands. 

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By presenting a customer with the ability to share their recent purchase or spread the word about your brand post-purchase, you’re making it easy for them to satisfy any and all of the core motivations for sharing, at the point when they’re most likely to do so. Whether a customer wants to express something about their personality through a purchase, get content in front of friends who will find value in it, or spread the word about their new favorite brand (yours), catching customers when they’re most emotionally invested in your brand is key to an effective social sharing strategy.

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Need proof? Analyzing Extole client data found that giving consumers the ability to share on the post-purchase confirmation page resulted in the highest volume of shared content, compared to other promotional placements across a brand’s owned assets. Eventbrite, which helps people buy and sell event tickets online, found similar results. Through their service, not only did the majority of sharing happen post-purchase (60% compared to 40%, pre-purchase), but post-purchase shares were also 20% more effective in driving ticket sales than pre-purchase shares.

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The Bottom Line 

As any marketer knows, understanding the customer—and why they buy—is critical to the success of any organization. The fundamentals haven’t changed. What has changed, in our increasingly social world, is that we now also need to understand what motivates customers to become brand advocates who will readily preach the gospel of our products, services, and causes for us. In summary, the process of developing a successful social sharing program involves:

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