Mike Walsh on Social Networking

Everybody is on social networks – we have Facebook, LInkedin, Tweeter, the new Google +; in China, we also have Weibo, RenRen, QQ…

Have you ever considered why you share so much of yourself on all these social networks?

Our most sought-after futurist speaker, Mike Walsh, shares his insights on the 7 motivators of sharing:

The 7 Motivators of Sharingmike_walsh.jpg

Now that it is fashionable to be sociable, those wretched share buttons are turning up everywhere. Read an article, book a flight, buy some shoes, finish a book – you are endlessly encouraged to let other people know. Surely it won’t be long, before they even ask us to tweet about paying our traffic fines. But here’s the problem. Making it easy for people to share is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for social success. People are happy to share things when they feel like it. The real question then, is what motivates them?

No one wakes up in the morning thinking they need to share something on Facebook. Perhaps you could argue that spending time on social networks nourishes the ‘belonging’ phase in Maslow’s infamous ‘Hierarchy Of Needs’. Personally, I’m not convinced that human desires are even hierarchical to start with. But there is no doubt that when it comes to our online behaviour – we are just as emotional, irrational and driven as we are in the physical world. From my observations of digital consumers – I’ve created a list of seven motivating factors for why people share. Here they are in no particular order:

1. To be a network alpha
There is always someone in your group who likes to be the first to discover and share the latest pop culture meme, interesting article or crazy statistic. This is no accident. ‘Network alphas’ spend a considerable amount of time and effort to establish themselves as the primary node in your circle of friends. They share content because it establishes their status in their group. If you want them to pay attention to you, make sure you feed them your material first.

2. To be more attractive
If you thinking about human motivators, you can’t go very far without acknowledging the magnetic compulsion of sex. People share inspiring quotes, their dreams and passions, pictures of themselves having fun on exotic holidays or driving glamorous sports cars – not for the sake of pure content creation, but rather to signal their suitability to the opposite sex. If we reveal ourselves through what we share, ask yourself this – will sharing your content make someone look sexy, or a complete dork?

3. To think out loud
Sometimes people also share things for organisational reasons. Everyday I share dozens of articles on del.icio.us – not because I care whether anyone is subscribing to my feed, or because I’m trying to vote up a particular article – but for the simple fact that tagging and sharing means that I can come back later and access my research from the Cloud.

4. To be part of something bigger
Sharing can also be a way of participating in a groundswell of collective action. We can add our ‘likes’, comments and votes to a big idea, a timely charity, or an election campaign. The visibility of our sharing behaviour during this process is important – because it binds us closer together with people with similar views and passions. That is why the share counts on posts or webpages can create momentum effects.

5. To build social ties
Have you noticed that after a party or a work function, there is generally someone in your network who insists on uploading photos and videos and tagging everyone in them? Sometimes it is a nice way to relive the collective moment. Other times – it’s an embarrassing reminder not to drink Tequila in public. But social cohesion is a powerful force. Groups – social or work related – become more dynamic with a greater sense of common purpose when they participate in collaborative sharing behaviours.

6. To get feedback
Content creators are motivated to share content to get feedback on their ideas. There is nothing less inspiring than writing a blog post or editing a video, for it then to languish in isolation on your hard drive. People who write and produce, do so increasingly for a public audience. We share what we make with people we hope will in turn share it with others.

7. To be famous
The final, and perhaps the overriding motivation for online sharing behaviours – is to get noticed. There are many figures in the digital community who are largely famous for being famous, and who have used social media and frequent sharing as a way of building their fan bases. Super sharers like Robert Scoble, Gary Vaynerchuk and Guy Kawasaki have built large followings as a result of early adopter domination of new social platforms. Sometimes you don’t have to offer free iPads or discounts to get people to share. Help them become more visible in their networks, and they will move mountains to share things for you.

A few caveats. Firstly I’m not the only person who is thinking about this. The New York Times and Latitude Research recently put out their own research on this subject. You can read it here. The other thing you should bear in mind is that any list like this needs to be taken with a cultural grain of salt. Consumers will behave very differently online and on social networks depending on their cultural programming. To be considered ‘digitally social’ in Brazil means something very different than what it does in the US, or in China for that matter. Nevertheless, if you are a brand or a professional marketer – understanding the true motivations for why your customers are willing to share your content and products is essential for your long term survival.

The future of marketing may be social – but the brand consumers care about is theirs, not yours.

Contact us at Speakers Connect at info@speakersconnect or +852 21654126 if you would like to engage MIke for your next event, or viist us for more top-notch International Speakers from us.