What Really Makes Something "Shareable?"

3rd Nov

Yes, the internet is drowning in grumpy cat videos, celebrity memes and other gags, but no one will ever see them unless someone clicks the “share” button. So what is it that makes content “shareable?” Let’s investigate!


What’s the first thing you do when you see a video of a girl bursting into flames after an ill-fated twerking session, or find indisputable photo evidence that some of your favourite celebrities are actually immortal, as explored by the Daily Beast?

Why, you share them with your friends of course.

Remember all of those irritating exponents from your maths class who were super-stars at algebra? Well, pull out your old textbooks and clean the cobwebs off the dust jackets, because they’ll tell you exactly how content goes viral:

First, you share a video of a bunch of kittens riding a robotic vacuum cleaner on your Facebook page. Then, all of your delighted friends reshare the same video, as do their friends, and their friends, and – well you get the idea. Low and behold, before you can say “look at those cute kittens,” this pile of furballs has found its way around the world and back again.

But what is it that actually compels us to hit the “share” button and pass these things along to our friends, families and even complete strangers?

It’s Pretty Simple: We Love to Share!

Before we get into what makes some items more shareable than others, let’s first give ourselves a little bit of context:

Simply put, our compulsion to share on the web is nothing short of prolific. Consider this: every minute of every day, we flood Twitter with over 277,000 tweets, post 216,000 images on Instagram, share 2,460,000 pieces of content on Facebook’s News Feed and upload 72 hours of video to YouTube, according to ShutterShock.

While some of this content is new and original, the vast majority is comprised of re-tweeted, re-grammed and recycled posts that humanity at large felt compelled to pass around. So what’s really going on here?

Psychologist Carl Rogers thinks he might know the answer. He’s condensed our voracious need for sharing into three, easily digestible considerations (Thanks Carl!):

  • Identity: Sharing content satisfies a basic need we have to project our identities – or more accurately, our desired identities. We’re all guilty of posting photos of ourselves at the gym and virtually none of our nights at home on the settee with biscuits and ice cream all over our faces.
  • Sense of Belonging: Anyone who’s taken a peek at social media during a football match will understand how this works – #COYS! only makes sense if you’re a fan.
  • Advocating Great Content: As part of a New York Times study, 94% of social sharers said they consider how useful or interesting the information will be to the recipient. Things that make us laugh, serve to inspire and enhance our day-to-day experience can and will be passed along.

All the Better to See You With

Amidst the mountains of memes, tweets, and status updates, it’s the visual content that really gets us going. According to Hubspot, we process images 60,000 times quicker than text.

But our brains don’t just understand visual content more quickly – images can immediately induce a deep, emotional response. The vast majority of social media content is visual, which means at the end of the day, photos, GIFs and videos are far more likely to be passed around.

Creating Visual, Shareable Content for Brands

If you’re in the business of generating shareable content, here’s our magic formula for success:

First, create a situation that will appeal to your target audience’s “ideal self” – in other words, an event that’s actually worth bragging about.

Next, make your content as shareable as possible by making it drop-dead gorgeous. Be sure that your images are captivating and stylish, and that your subjects look absolutely fabulous. If you transform someone into a model for a night, they’ll definitely be showing their friends. Put them on the cover of Vogue and they’ll be bragging about it to the entire world!

Then, make your content easy to share with our intuitive and attractive social software. Take it a step further by stylising the entire process – with customised emails, microsites and share copy, you’ll maximise the visibility of your brand and get the most out of each share.

Top it all off with some invaluable social analytics and event reports so you can keep improving your content game on the daily, and voila! You’ve got yourself a recipe for some seriously shareable material. Delicious.