The PR BlogMedia & PsychologyCommunication TheoriesThe Narcissistic Principle: Why We Share in Social Media

The Narcissistic Principle: Why We Share in Social Media

Leave room in your copy for users to express themselves.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

There’s a nar­ciss­ist­ic prin­ciple behind all social shares.

In this short blog art­icle, I’ll demon­strate why brands should think dif­fer­ently about their social media copy.

To begin, we will take a closer look at the psy­cho­logy behind why we share on social media.

Let’s go:

Why We Share on Social Media

When we share on social media, we share for a reas­on. And that reas­on typ­ic­ally has some­thing to do with ourselves.

  • We share to make ourselves look smart.
  • We share to fit in and to stand out.
  • We share to express individuality.
  • We share to belong to our in-group.
  • We share to be loved.
  • We share to pro­voke reac­tions for attention.
  • We share to extract sympathy.
  • We share to make us feel bet­ter about ourselves.
  • We share to get ahead.
  • We share to grow an audi­ence.
  • We share to com­pensate for our shortcomings.
  • We share to get the respect we need.

And so on.

And most of us get this. As humans, why would we do any­thing if it does­n’t do any­thing for us?

Perception Quote - Anais Nin
We’re all biased.

Prompts for Self-Expression

The kick­er is that most brand updates are miss­ing the point of this nar­ciss­ist­ic prin­ciple. They use up all the oxy­gen, so there’s noth­ing left for any­one to add.

Look at this tweet where I’ve replied:

A tweet as an example of the narcissistic principle in social media.
I just had to add some snarkiness.

I’m being manip­u­lated by the nar­ciss­ist­ic prin­ciple here. The ori­gin­al tweet is bait­ing for people to reply. I’m try­ing to sig­nal that I’m smart here, but that’s not the case.

The tweet is most likely sent out by a Russian bot aim­ing to ignite divi­sion. Like a noob, I reacted, try­ing to be funny.

The psy­cho­lo­gic­al power of tweets like these is how they’re designed to be prompts for self-expres­sion. Brand updates in social media prac­tic­ally nev­er do this.

The Narcissistic Principle for Brands

So, we rarely share cor­por­ate mes­sages on our social net­works. Not because brands have noth­ing inter­est­ing to say but because they’re doing a good job of ensur­ing everything is being said.

To run a DIY exper­i­ment, I col­lec­ted 100 social media updates re-shared by a user. Out of these, 86 updates included added share com­ments where the users expressed some­thing about themselves.

I then col­lec­ted a smal­ler sample of branded social media updates without shares. I tried to think of what my share com­ment would be — if I were to share these tweets. Nothing came to mind.

So, what to do?

Look at your brand’s social media copy. If someone were to share your update in their feeds, would it be easy to instantly add share com­ments to express themselves? 

Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing it with oth­er PR- and com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo


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