The world of social media is a moving target.

It seems like almost every week, there is a new algorithm change, an update to a platform’s layout, or a new “best practice” tip or trick that’s sure to skyrocket your engagement.

What stays the same – across platforms and throughout time – is the human element.

As people, the content that we love and the content that we love to share remains relatively static. Sure, there are trends and news cycles that have an impact. But, by and large, the types of content that gets shared and why we share it is driven by the same, fundamental parts of human nature.

The team at Slidely recently published a new infographic that analyzes the where, what, and – most importantly – why behind social sharing. Compiling data from many different studies, the infographic showcases not only trends in behavior, but also real, human insight about the underlying desires that drive some of the sharing we see online.

Slidely science of social media sharing

Beyond the standard “best times to post” data, there are some other key takeaways to learn from this data.

First and foremost, humans are driven by emotion.

The infographic highlights that 25% of social media users say they are driven to share by a sense of awe. After that, 17% share because a post made them laugh and 15% share because the content was amusing or funny. Even negative emotions play a role–more than 1 in 20 respondents said that they shared a post that caused them to feel anger.

This gives us some clues about how to optimize content for sharing:

  • Use emotionally charged language in titles and descriptions
  • Dig past the surface level of content to find the human and emotional angle whenever possible
  • Don’t be afraid of negative emotions; strong feelings inspire action

Secondly, we use content as a way to shape and reinforce our identities. What we share on Facebook and Twitter is a signal that we use to tell our friends and colleagues something about us–what we value and how we think.

In the data, about one-third of users say they share content that helps them maintain an image of themselves or their identity. In addition, 40% of respondents say they share content specifically because it will make them look good to their peers. Lastly, nearly two-thirds of respondents say that they avoid sharing content that may reflect poorly on them.

In other words, people don’t want to share things that may expose them to ridicule or judgement.

This also offers a glimpse into how we can use these psychological triggers to drive more content sharing and engagement:

  • Create persona-targeted content that speaks to identity and helps people express their thoughts and feelings
  • Search for ways to connect content with a larger narrative about people and their identity
  • Carefully consider if your content may reflect poorly on someone who shares it

Of course, there will always be a lot of creativity–and art–that goes into creating great content that gets shared. But there’s a bit of science, too.

By understanding the underlying forces that drive users to share and matching it with the realities of logistics like the best places and times for social media engagement, your brand can craft and test a strategy that’s sure to drive more shares, engagement, and traffic.

increase social media engagement

Yael is the Content Lead at Slidely + Promo, making social media marketing easier through intuitive video creation. She lives and breaths content and creative storytelling in all its forms. When not developing innovative ideas to help global businesses big and small you can find her riding her bike through the streets of Tel Aviv and sipping iced coffee while listening to the latest pop culture podcasts.