Social media for professionals: how to get others to share your content

Candice O'Sullivan
March 26, 2013

In a recent post, I talked about the potential for social media to amplify your referral rate by augmenting traditional word of mouth. This exponential result, however, is dependent on others sharing your social content. So how do you get others to spread your message for you by sharing your posts?

Traditional word of mouth remains a useful analogy in this context. Consider why someone might choose to have a conversation about you with someone they meet at a networking function or with a friend they pass in the street. Assuming they have something positive to say, it’s because you are interesting and/or creating value and and/or servicing their needs well. Put simply, you are worth talking about. In many cases, their reason for talking about you also serves another (partly self-serving) purpose: they bother to talk about you because they want to give the other person the opportunity to have a similarly positive and rewarding experience with you.

eWOM works on the same premise. Your content will only be shared if it is worth sharing. And it will only be worth sharing if it is relevant and meaningful to the people you are trying to engage with. This, of course, comes back to knowing your target audiences well and understanding what they both need and like. Content that is relevant will naturally drive your firm’s relevance and, therefore, consideration of your brand.

In this way, content marketing is a great tool for creating brand affinity, but being ‘liked’ and ‘followed’ is a fairly low-engagement (low-cost) decision. Getting your content shared, on the other hand, requires a deeper level of engagement. In this regard, it can be helpful to remember that social media sites represent communities. Even though these communities are virtual, community spirit (i.e. good old sharing and caring) is still essential. If you focus on developing content that helps the people you want to serve by providing information they value, you will do well with your social media efforts. Just like any community service, you need to give to get – and the more you give, the more you will get.

All that said, some people are more likely to share than others. We can use Malcolm Gladwell’s archetypes from ‘The Tipping Point’ to help describe those most likely to share:

  • Connectors – people who genuinely enjoy meeting other people and are naturally curious about and interested in what others have to offer. Their motivation is the joy of ‘being social’ and so they often have a large number of social connections across a number of different social platforms.
  • Recommenders (‘mavens’)– people who are always ‘in the know’ and motivated by the joy of giving good advice. They are not as sociable as connectors but they often have very high-quality connections and can be very persuasive, as their history for giving advice is often known and highly regarded.

These individuals are likely to have more influence in a social context than others. It can be a good investment of time to regularly ‘audit’ your followers to identify these individuals, whom you can then target more aggressively (e.g. by Twitter direct mail or LinkedIn inmail). This does not mean that you should disregard the more common social ‘spectator’ though. These individuals may not do a lot of sharing (of their own or your content) but they are good observers and, as such, know how to spot quality. Because observing is their key social activity, their tendency is to follow more people rather than less; however, to keep their ‘observational field’ manageable, they will only keep following brands or individuals that continue to provide value. You may not ever see or hear much from a spectator but when the time is right and they need the type of services you offer, they will already know where to go and actively seek you out because of what they have learnt about you from your social presence and contributions.

For a useful summary of the various types of adult online behaviour, you may like to refer to the following ‘Social Techographics Ladder’ developed by Forrester:

Social Technographics Ladder, Forrester Research

In summary, good content is always worth sharing. Do your research to ensure you understand what your clients and prospects define as ‘good’ and you will have a much better chance of getting them to spread your message for you.

In my next post, I’ll explore how you can repurpose your content to get more out of what you produce. To receive an email alert, simply subscribe to our blog.

By Candice O’Sullivan, Director and Head of Strategy at Wellmark. You can find Candice on Google+ at +Candice O’Sullivan.

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