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Why sharing content is like giving a gift

February 2, 2014

To me, the sharing of content is like giving a gift.

Christmas gifts.

Gift giving is about trying to think of the thing someone will like, and then getting it for them.

Gift giving is really an exercise in thinking about what people will like.

On a much smaller scale, the sharing or forwarding of an idea or content is the same thing.

“I really think Jennifer will like this.”

“I really think my Twitter followers will dig this.”

Indeed, people share content mostly because they like their friend or like their community.

So before people share something, they think about who in their network will like it. Then they think about why. They might write a personal note like: “Knowing your sense of humor, I thought this would make you laugh”. Or, “I know you like this [product], here’s how to get a coupon.”

For a University, it is sharing content based on shared experience. A picture of the Chapel is shared because of an experience in the Chapel. Even with massive platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, there is something personal in the act of sharing.

At least, that’s what we should think when designing messages or ideas that could get forwarded. Why do we want our alumni to share this? Why do we want our current students to share it?

We should think that for a person to forward our idea, they are giving their friend a gift. It might be the gift of information. It might be the gift of a laugh. It might be the gift of insider-only information.

But if it doesn’t feel like a gift, it won’t be shared.

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