The social psychology of the Share bar

June 26 2012 | offbeatbride

Across all the Offbeat Empire sites, we've always had our sharing bar (you know, the thing that allows you to easily Like or Send via Facebook, Tweet, Pin, etc) at the end of the each post. The theory here was basic: you read the post, then you share.

But I had an aha moment looking at another blog where I realized that the share bar also gives an indication of whether you should read the post. When you go to read a post, and you see right at the top that a shitload of people have already Liked it or shared it, you get a clue as to whether the post matters.

The share bar's action is more than just about sharing after the fact — seeing how many other people have shared something taps into a basic tenet of social psychology, telling you that it might be worth YOU taking a look (and maybe sharing), too.


It only took a few minutes for my long-suffering developer to copy the sharebar to appear at the top of the post as well as at the bottom. The results were immediate, and dramatic:

  1. So…if people see the "share" bars at the top and bottom of each post (regardless of shares), they tend to read and share them more? Interesting. I thought that if posts with a smaller amount of shares/likes had that advertised at the top, maybe less people would bother reading. But here it seems to just benefit the sharing? Or am I just not understanding the graph?

    (Working on my coffee, and also I like leaving this kind of thinking to people who are good at it 😉 )

    As always, loving the behind the scenes…

    2 agree
  2. Very, very smart. I need to see if I can tweek my posts to show the share bar at the top. This social proof works in other areas as well. When I first started blogging I used the Facebook page plug-in that shows how many people have "liked" your page. I realized right away that new readers are going to roll their eyes when they see my FB page has 20 Likes. So I changed it to just the Like button and my numbers started climbing.

  3. Interesting. I wonder if someone could design it to pop up at the top once X-many shares happen, so you get the incentive without the disincentive.

    8 agree
      • I would be willing to bet you actual physical American cash money that that could be done. (I couldn't do it, but I'm a front-end developer, not a backend programmer.)

        And on a totally-not-related note, I thought of you when I saw this post on responding to abusive commenters. 🙂

        1 agrees
      • Not to endorse Gawker's particular model, but with the posts that appear along the right-hand side of their pages, there used to be a flame icon that lit up red (I think) when the post got more than a certain number of views or comments. Very powerful stuff.

  4. DUDE.

    Was just talking about this last week with my assistant… but SO useful to see the graphs about it!

    Also: further reading "Influence" by Cialdini

  5. I love this so much that I just created a "business tools" Pinterest board so I know I won't forget. Yep, totally nerding out over here!

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