What’s behind our urge to share on social media?

Most of us take Facebook at, well, “face” value – a social network that “connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them,” as the site itself says. But peel back the façade of friends, likes, photos, apps and more, and you’re left with an extensive data set on human social behavior that intrigues scientists and psychologists alike.

From CNN’s first-of-its-kind list of “The 12 most annoying types of Facebookers” to AllFacebook’s more recent post on “7 Facebook Personalities to Avoid” and even Vanity Fair’s take on “The Six Most Common Personality Types on Facebook,”  it’s clear that we’re fascinated by the fact that human interaction has migrated online, and that it’s able to be observed so easily within the Facebook microcosm.

Consider this: Each month, more than 845 million people record and share intimate details of their daily lives, relationships and online activity through their friend connections, messages, photos, check-ins, and clicks. Couple that with predictions that the number of active Facebook users will reach 1 billion in 2012, and you can’t help but ponder the common thread that unites approximately one-seventh of the entire world population, inspiring them to share so freely and publicly.

Well, according to several Harvard University psychologists, there’s a definitive reason behind why we like to reveal our thoughts, views and opinions to friends, near and far. The research, which was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences by Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell of Harvard’s Department of Psychology, even went as far as to claim that humans devote a surprising 30–40 percent of speech output solely to informing others of their own subjective experiences.

Why, exactly, are we compelled to do so? The act of disclosing this information about ourselves actually triggers the same pleasure centers in the brain that are activated by fundamental rewards such as food and sex, according to the study. Throughout the course of their experiments, the pair even found that some of the participants were willing to forgo money in place of disclosing information about their personal experiences!

Tie this back to us and our use of social media – and Facebook, in particular – as PR professionals and marketers, and we can get a much better idea of how to use these tools to connect with (versus broadcast at) target audiences, encouraging them to raise their voice and join in the conversation. And the more we practice this golden rule of social networking – keeping it about “them” not “us” – the more mutual success and satisfaction we’ll find in these relationships, both online and off.

How do you feel about sharing online, and do you have any particular best practices to share regarding personal/professional content? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Persuasive Picks for week of 4/16/12

When Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation, started to run her own business, she never would have guessed that a day would come when she’d be expected to update the internet on her life in 140 characters or less. To help CEO’s aspiring to join the Twitter-sphere, Deborah posts her advice on Becoming a “Corporate Executive Tweeter” on SocialMediaToday.

A strong referral network is imperative for small businesses. Thanks to social networking, businesses can now connect directly with customers, enabling them to market in new more cost-effective ways. MarketingProfs guest blogger Pamela Springer provides some tips to Build a Strong Referral Network to Boost Your Business and parlay those social networks into business opportunities.

Pinterest isn’t only for women – despite its heavy concentration on all things girlie, it’s for guys, too! Pinterest has a growing audience of men who like the site – for many of the same reasons women do explains Jennifer Waters in her latest MarketWatch article Why men like social-media site Pinterest.

Doug Schumacher takes a look at some numbers around Facebook content and what kind is the most shared, and finds that video and photo posts are far more likely to be shared than status updates or links. Find out more of What consumers share on Facebook – and why in his iMediaConnection post.

Persuasive Picks for week of 4/2/12

Bored with your boards? Jennifer Van Grove of VentureBeat reviews one of the most requested features as Pinterest introduces customizable board covers – offering “pinners” the ability to choose a pin to be the cover for each board.

Tara Meehan writes that properly regulating social media shouldn’t be viewed as a negative. In fact, a compliant social media strategy can strengthen your messaging, build better relationships with existing clients and make you more attractive to potential clients. Here’s 4 Reasons Why All Companies Should Be Social Media Compliant via iMediaConnection.

Want Real Business Results From Facebook? Run a Social Campaign writes Mark Schmulen in this MarketingProfs post that provides examples of effective social media marketing via Facebook; as well as, explains how Facebook social campaigns can drive business results.

Businesses are getting more sophisticated in their use of social networking, so too are the metrics by which they measure social business ROI. As your business gets more social-savvy, Debra Donston-Miller of InformationWeek provides 5 Social Media Metrics That Matter Now that will help strengthen your metrics strategy.

Persuasive Picks for week of 3/12/12

Does social media affect how you spend money? You betcha. Drew Olanoff of TheNextWeb says that it isn’t whether social services influence how we spend money, but how they affect our habits – and gives readers a closer look at three ways social media is doing this: influence, information, and indiscretion (yes, indiscretion).

Lisa Evans gives some expert advice on How Small Businesses Can Integrate SEO Into Their Social Media Efforts. She writes that optimizing your social media efforts so that both search engines and social community members can find your content is essential, and provides some helpful tips to integrate into your social media strategy – via ClickZ

Jason Blount posted on SocialMediaToday that Facebook Is No Longer Just Social Media – rather it has evolved into a personal representation of a user’s self and pretty soon almost every application that you use on a regular basis will integrate directly with your Timeline.

A recent report published on MarketingProfs, LinkedIn Use by Professionals in Industrial Sector Surges, shows that the use of LinkedIn among engineering, technical, manufacturing and industrial professionals continues to rise; and sites that keeping up to date with the latest business and product news and technologies is the most popular use of social networking within the tech/industrial sectors.

Persuasive Picks for week of 3/5/12

Forbes contributor Anthony Kosner breaks down the success of YouTube’s recently Most Popular video KONY 2012, a poignant 30 minute video with over 50 million views that begs the question; can the power of social media do what foreign policy cannot?  Kosner’s piece provides  12 Lessons from KONY 2012 from Social Media Power Users including be positive, get their attention and make it personal.

Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post looks at the impact of  Social Media in the media. Has the viral nature of news accomplished anything? Read more in her piece Virality Uber Alles: What the Fetishization of Social Media Is Costing Us All

This week also brings us a creative picture painting of  The Beauty of Social Media, an infographic posted by Shea Bennett that takes a closer look at how the beauty industry has embraced Social Media, and the innovative ways the top brands are using Social Media channels in this post by AllTwitter.

For most, Social Media brings to mind Facebook or Twitter. Krista Neher points out that there are more opportunities beyond the obvious to grow brand presence in her recent post 6 Effective but Ignored Social Media Marketing Sites on ClickZ.