Creating shareability: It’s about fun, fun, fun.

On social media, creating organic growth in followers is often directly related to how often pictures, videos or other posts get shared. But what creates shareability online? 

For (traditional) WOM several research studies have shown that people speak mostly about impressive experiences, often those that are relevant to the other person they are directly speaking to, the same isn’t necessarily true for much of the social media landscape. Of course, posting impressive-looking pictures is something many of us do, but impressive looking pictures of (personal) holidays, for example, do not create organic growth for an organisation. And are seldomly shared beyond the immediate social circle of the poster. 

So what can you, as an organisation, talk about? And how can you create sharing online that translates into potential WOM face-to-face? The answer is surprisingly simple… it just has to be curious, novel or new – or just original. And don’t worry too much about whether it is something that makes a lot of sense. As long as it is quick and easy fun, it is likely to be sharable.

Take the example of Confession Time. A website where everyone can share random confessions. Nothing happens there; you can simply post something. It is absurdly useless. Funny maybe. But useless. Why anyone in their right mind would follow them on Twitter is anyone’s guess… but the site has featured on the BBC, Techcrunch, T37…. you name the tech site from anywhere around the globe, chances are it has created buzz for i4giveu.

Can you make this into a marketing strategy? Of course! The trick is to link one of these shareable to the experience, which can then be, later on, the subject of face-to-face talk. Take the successful example of Changi Airport Singapore. What is important for an airport: transit times, shopping, food, cleanliness, efficiency… but few people tweet “wow! love how clean the airport is” (they may do the opposite though!). And although Changi is pretty great as an airport, it is also a quite smooth operator when it comes to social media (no wonder, it is in one of the most connected cities in the world). Since 2013 the airport used a few pretty nifty little tricks to get people talking about the experience. By providing something useless, cute, fun – but above all: sharable.

If you have seen people tweet from Changi you are probably familiar with the “social tree” they installed in the transit zone. It must be one of the most photographed trees in the world… especially in an airport that features a lot of trees in other areas. Why do people share this? The trick is that it focuses travellers attention, and yes, they can send a picture to it Does it make your journey any smoother? Does it help to shorten (in a substantive way) a long layover? …Probably not. But what it does, is to give travellers a bit of fun they can share. Useless, useless fun. But fun. And very packable into short social media posts.

Changi tree, i4giveu… you can probably continue the list with hundreds of more items that are shared despite their clear uselessness. So there you have it… if you are serious about driving online sharability, think silliness, or at least fun. Because those few seconds of stupid fun are what matters to people.

Published by Dr Stephan Dahl

Stephan Dahl is Adjunct Associate Professor at James Cook University. His research interests include social media, marketing ethics and social marketing, and he has published in national and international journals, including the Journal of Advertising Research and Journal of Marketing Management. He is an editorial board member of the International Journal of Advertisingand the Journal of Consumer Affairs. He published the books Social Media Marketing: Theories of Digital Communications and Marketing Ethics & Society (both Sage) and is also the co-author of Social Marketing (Pearson) and Integrated Marketing Communications (Taylor and Francis).

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