It’s an easy position to be in—explaining what brands must do to attract and engage consumers. We read about best practices and trends from industry leaders and accept their conjecture as gospel, but we see the landscape from the narrowed expert view. That view is an essential component to experience-building, but it only tells half of the story. The other half comes from the consumer—the thousands of people building the story your brand desires to tell. So let’s listen in as we address the view from the other side. Here are 3 reasons why consumers share content:
1. It’s poignant
Consumers are naturally curious, but inherently lazy—I can certainly attest to that. This has made social media such an integral piece of the consumer journey. We search and consume content at will, finding that which aligns closest with our personality and values. If something is poignant enough, we’ll consider sharing it—otherwise, it stays out of our life and our story. It’s eerily reminiscent of high school, as we vigilantly cling to our reputation. Can I risk being seen with the nerds? What will the other jocks think of me? This inner-monologue plays through every consumer’s head when encountering a brand online or in person. The difference is, in person, we feel a stronger influence from the personal interaction—one that ultimately provides enough of a push to make it Facebook official.
2. It aligns with their personality
Is this for me? If I’m asking myself that question, the experience or content isn’t my bag. Too much of what we consume is generalized to the point that it doesn’t cater to our needs, let alone our individual personalities. Call me selfish, but if I’m going to share content, I don’t want to be just another face in the sea of shared posts. I want my contribution to reflect me—my personality, face, favorite color, etc. It’s not realistic for content and experiences to be design specifically to me, but I’d like the opportunity to make it my own. From what I’ve seen, content and experiences are trending in that direction. Say a travel agency or tourism group targets me—I’m going to want to see myself in that location, or see what my ideal vacation looks like. I don’t participate in BuzzFeed quizzes because I’m bored or like being graded—I do so because I want to reveal my personal fit for the situation or brand. If we didn’t, our own stories and that of the brand would be identical and monotonous, and ain’t nobody got time for that.
3. A genuine brand interaction has occured
To an extent, our publishing habits are an extension of our loyalties. Personally, I’m a loyalist to Under Armour apparel—a lucky byproduct of my University of Maryland education. Would I wear Nike apparel, now? Absolutely not—and I certainly wouldn’t flaunt a picture of myself in it (friends and family might disown me). However, if I happen upon a unique Nike stunt or experience while out and about, my curiosity will likely get the best of me. I will absolutely check it out, and if it’s interesting enough, I’ll even submit myself to Nike’s brand story and share my experience. Ultimately, the brand’s story doesn’t hinge on whether I trade my stripes in for spots, but whether I have a genuine interaction that I feel comfortable sharing. If they can accomplish that, the word-of-mouth is all the value they need.
Whether or not we like to admit it, social media is as much a part of our healthy diet as is breakfast. Without it, we’re just not the same high-functioning humans we tout ourselves as. Every post we make authors another entry to our own personal story, and more often than not, it extends a friend’s or even a brand’s story. It represents our interests and our cherished values. With that in mind, we tend to be selective in who and what we promote—I know I am. Brands understand this sentiment as well as our ensuing struggle to share outside content. As the young kids say, the struggle is real, but the brands that persevere and listen to the consumer will ultimately reap the rewards.
Jay Selig is a marketing and PR manager at RedPeg Marketing, an independent experiential marketing shop headquartered in D.C., with an office in L.A.