What about social media incentives?

As a digital strategist, people sometimes ask me about the secret sauce for digital marketing.

In traditional PR, the secret sauce has always been conflict.

In a news-driven world, conflict simply is king (see How To Pitch The Press).

If a company is hiring, that in itself becomes extra interesting if other companies are laying people off. If you have a good product, the product becomes more interesting if it solves a problem. And it becomes even more interesting if someone specific have failed epically to solve the problem in the past.

But in digital marketing, the secret sauce in digital marketing is social media incentives.

The Narcissistic Principle

Incentives come in many shapes and forms.

Contests and giveaways are common and even if the Hippie Web sometimes frown upon such novel activities, the same way traditional PR purists frown upon using surveys for PR.

But the fact of the matter is that statistics from new surveys works — and so does contests and giveaways.

But incentives is also so much more. It’s a behavioral logic:

We share to to make ourself look smart.
We share to fit in and to stand out.
We share to express individuality.
We share to belong to our community.
We share to be more loved.
We share to extract sympathy.
We share to get ahead.

And so on.

Yet, there are just as many online corporate activities that lack any user incentive as there are press releases that lack conflict. If it’s that easy, why are we making it so hard?

At the core, it’s all about humanity.

When we want to tell the world our happy news, every fiber of our beings wants to stay away from the conflict.

When we want people to share our messages, it feels awkward to let the users themselves reign over the messaging according to their own agendas.

And this is why these secret sauces stay so elusive.

And here’s the kicker; in order to better understand how to talk, you must first learn how to shut up for a second and listen to what people want. Difficult, yes. Counter-intuitive, yes.

Better? Absolutely.