The Decision to Share Content

I have talked glibly about passing along web content. In other posts. By “passing along web content” I mean something as simple as including another blogger’s link on your blogroll. But you and I have the freedom and the tools with which to pass along web content in many different ways. We can share in Facebook and Twitter, we can “Like It,” bookmark it on dozens of different social bookmarking sites, and send it along in an email from our web browser or our mobile device.

Shared content is  a recommendation to others.

When I share a link to some piece of content or to a website, I know I have some little mental checklist in my mind, nothing formal, but it’s a little decision-making list. For example, since first creating my list of links along my sidebar “Marketing and Writing Sites I Read,” 4 years ago, I’ve removed some that no longer “made the cut” and added others. Each with my little mental checklist in mind.

On Facebook, Twitter, everywhere you look others are consuming and sharing web content, some created by them the rest produced by others. But I am confident they each have a little mental checklist they run down in their heads before hitting the Share button…after all it’s a recommendation going out to friends, acquaintances, prospective clients, prospective employers, current employers, many different people. In some cases, the decision to share content can be a direct reflection on who you are and what you’re all about.

In an October 2009 Fast Company article, author, Sam Ford, articulates just such a mental decision making process:

When I receive or stumble on a news story, I make a whole host of decisions about whether I am going to share it with others:

  • Do I want to look at it?
  • If I decide to, is it worth sharing with others?
  • If it is worth sharing with others, what combination of people I know would I want to share it with, depending on the content?
  • What is the context I am going to share it under?

He’s referring to viral content (Spreadable Media: A Cure for Viral Marketing), but the idea applies here as well.

With growing opportunities to share or recommend various forms of online content, it might be prudent to keep in mind that if you are responsible for creating or producing web content, or the custodian of it, that it’s not just about “building links”….that is way too simplistic and doesn’t get to the gut of it. Instead the decision someone makes to share your content with others in his/her many networks can be governed by various decision making filters that get your content recommended as a link, a thumbs up, etc.

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One Comment on “The Decision to Share Content”

  1. Sam Ford Says:

    Jennifer, I’m glad you found the list regarding how and why people spread content useful. I am currently working on a book with Henry Jenkins and Joshua Green on how content spreads, and I think the sort of thing you “like” or “share” with others falls into that space. The problem with “viral” is that it doesn’t really describe how people share content, and thus it’s become really contorted. As you point out, I think the methodology behind why people share a news story with friends or why we pass along a video are quite the same, and they are more about what we want to project about ourselves and the relationships we have with those they know than they are about the content. Inasmuch as the content acts as building blocks for our own reputation-building or fodder to help us maintain connections that are important to us, that content will be spread. But that requires a mindset that’s much more audience-focused than the marketing industries have been comfortable with in the past. In PR, there’s long been an ideal that the reporter is as much our “client” as the person paying the bills. Our job is to match communication goals of the company with communication needs and wants from the media. But, of course, the media is a very narrow–albeit influential–part of the “public.” And all of the marketing disciplines really have to rethink how we are reaching people and how we are serving them with content.


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