When combined with Twitter and Instagram, Facebook accounts for 96.4% of social sharing.

By Paul Flowers, President of Circa 46

Everybody talks about social media, but it doesn’t seem that many people know how to create content for the web that others will share. It’s one thing to get others to “Like” your post; it’s far different – and much harder – to get them to share or respond to your content.

A 2015 research study* tracked the 2,000 most-shared social media posts over a twelve-month period on Facebook, and then surveyed 10,000 social media users to determine what might drive them to share that content online. The goal of the study was to identify which psychological drivers might increase the likelihood of sharing content on Facebook.

Why focus on Facebook? When combined with Twitter and Instagram, Facebook accounts for 96.4% of social sharing. This percentage seems in line for senior housing. Chances are that almost all social media activity by senior housing operators – other than the possible exception of using Twitter for recruitment purposes – appears on Facebook.

Four major conclusions emerged from the study that suggest how certain psychological drivers contribute to social media users sharing content they found on Facebook. In no particular order, they are:

The Value of “Looking Good”

The single biggest driver of shared social media was whether or not the content made the sharer “look good.” More than half (52%) identified this as important in their consideration of sharing it with their Facebook friends. By contrast, only 36% of people agreed that they were more likely to share a post because it made the sharer “look intelligent.”

Make Me “Happy”

Previous studies of social media sharing have suggested content that triggers emotion tends to be shared more often. And content that evokes “happiness” is more likely to be shared than other emotions. Among the types of emotions considered in the survey, 47% of the people surveyed said they were more likely to share content that made people feel “happy” versus 27% who said they were likely to share content that was “exciting.” By contrast, content that evoked negative emotions like “anger” or “sadness” was not often shared.  

The Best “Storyteller” Wins

52% of the most-shared Facebook content contained a “story” in itself. The stories were not necessarily long or complex – some being as short as 27 words – but they had enough substance to be deemed “a story.” These posts typically had a graphic element to them, either a photograph/illustration or a video. Interestingly, storytelling is a far more important characteristic for social users over 35 versus younger ones.

Be “Useful”

Content that contains something “useful” – like discounts, recipes, do-it-yourself tips, etc. – is another significant driver of social sharing. The concept of usefulness is of greater importance to Facebook users over the age of 55, who tend to use the internet more as a means for obtaining information than for entertainment. Not only is the practice of providing useful content more effective with seniors, it is generally an easier strategy to consistently implement versus the other three.

So what do these conclusions mean for senior housing operators who want robust social media programs?

First, a strategically-sound posting strategy should be developed in order for you to get maximum benefit from your social media efforts. Plan out your social media activities. If you post haphazardly, your social media program will not gain traction.

Second, ask these four questions about the content you plan to post:

  1. Will sharing this content make my prospect – or anyone who influences my prospect – look good?

  2. Will this content evoke a positive emotion, such as happiness or excitement?

  3. Does this content tell a story in itself?

  4. Is this content useful, or does it otherwise contain information that has strong practical value?

If at least one of these questions can be answered positively, your content will be more shareable.

* Tania Yuki; “What Makes Brands’ Social Content Shareable on Facebook?”; Journal of Advertising Research; December 2015

Paul Flowers is President of Circa 46, a marketing communications firm and Senior Housing Forum partner, that delivers the senior market to its clients. They specialize in leading-edge digital and traditional advertising methodology that is not only effective, but efficient – so it keeps marketing costs down.