The Truth About Facebook Shares

I read an interesting article in Adweek the other day. Christopher Heine discussed how brands now prefer Facebook shares over likes. Now this is not a new thing – of course shares are the preferred method of engagement and always have been.

The point Heine makes is that while the humble ‘like’ used to pack quite a punch, it’s now rather over-used and somewhat meaningless. I have to agree with Scott Monty, Social Media Director at Ford when he compares a Facebook ‘like’ to a “digital grunt”. As social media platforms have diffused, ‘likes’ have emerged as the lowest form of engagement.

Likes are over-rated

We all have those friends who just about ‘like’ everything. And I mean everything. Unfortunately what this means is that the once noble ‘like’ has now become flippant and over-used.

The illusive ‘share’ however – now that’s true Facebook engagement. If someone takes the time to share your post, well they really mean business right?

In my opinion, the Facebook ‘share’ is the closest Facebook gets to word of mouth marketing. By sharing a post you are literally endorsing a product. And as we know – people only share things if they believe it will enhance other people’s perceptions of them. Basic psychology dictates that at the innate level, we all just want to be liked by others – and so the act of sharing is a subconscious desperate cry for approval.

OK I may have taken the analogy too far – but you get the point. While someone may flippantly ‘like’ a post – they won’t share it unless they genuinely believe in & relate to it enough to make that ‘share’ endorsement. This can be true of any ‘share’, from a clothing sale promotional post, to a cute picture of a kitten.

Furthermore, Facebook’s algorithm gives a whopping 1300% more weight to shares than likes which drastically increases Facebook reach for brands that take the time to harness shares over likes.

How to increase shares

So we know that shares are the holy grail of Facebook engagement – but what’s the best way to increase them? In my opinion the answer lies in a really smart digital content strategy that puts word of mouth at the heart of its objectives. It also depends on how well you know your audience.

If you don’t know the answers to the following questions, then in my opinion your digital content strategy is lacking somewhat.

  • How does your audience consume digital content?
  • What content pillars are most effective for your target?
  • What types of content are worthy of being shared?
  • Are your audience primarily content consumers or creators?
  • What’s unique about your product to determine talkability?

What will people share?

If you know digital, then you’ll know that certain types of content are much more likely to get shared than others. This is where a deep understanding of word of mouth marketing comes in handy. Having worked on over 50 word of mouth campaigns over the last 5 years, the team at Contagious have a pretty good understanding of what works from a share-ability perspective.

While I won’t go into detail about what those things are now (feel free to book a meeting with Contagious if you are keen to learn more) I would like to make it clear that whatever you think people will share – it’s likely they may not. In our experience, marketers tend to vastly overestimate what people will share simply because they don’t have the experience or deep understanding of what drives shares.

Jonah Berger, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Wharton School of Business has dedicated years to understanding this phenomena and you can read more about his research in previous posts – but one of the things he identified is that positive content is more shareable than negative content. It makes sense – people like to share good news.

In my experience, over time it becomes clear what works for your audience and what doesn’t. Yes, there is an element of test and learn – but hey, it’s social and the digital environment changes literally every single day, hour, minute. The most important thing is that brands commit to a long-term digital word of mouth strategy that will enable them to identify key content sharing trends among their audience.

To learn more about what drives shares in social, book a meeting with Contagious.



Zoe Boalch

About Zoe Boalch

Zoë Boalch is co-founder of Contagious Agency. Zoë likes: hot chili, yoga, learning new stuff, positive people, taking risks Zoë dislikes: naysayers, grumpy people, rather large egos
This entry was posted in advocacy, digital, feature articles, social media, word of mouth and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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