Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series. Read Part 2: "Using humor, urgency to generate real estate leads."

Have you ever noticed the one thing that virtually every social media platform on the planet has in common? It’s the share button. Sharing is the foundation upon which social networking is based, as well as the key to building a successful real estate business.

At Real Estate Connect, Brian Brett, The New York Times’ managing director of customer research, presented his findings on the psychology of sharing. His insights provide important clues for how to build your business using social media.

Brett began his talk by outlining five key reasons that people share. Three of these reasons provide a template for how the real estate business has been conducted offline for decades.

In the past, the goal was to spread your marketing messages as widely as possible via print and other broadcast media. The more people you reached, the greater your rate of return would be. Here are the three examples Brett discussed that illustrate this approach:

1. We share to define ourselves to others and to receive social validation.
This type of sharing is based upon satisfying our needs for recognition and is at the heart of the old style of marketing. In other words, it’s about meeting your needs rather than those of your potential customers.

For example, suppose that you were named the top-producing agent in your market area. You announce this in your postcard marketing campaign to your farm, on your blog, on your website, as well as in a press release to your local newspaper. The challenge: this is all about you rather than the person receiving the communication.

2. We share for self-fulfillment — "We enjoy getting credit for it."
Suppose that you are marketing yourself as the real estate expert who helps homeowners save money on their property taxes. You feel good when you help people save money and you also enjoy the credit you receive in the community as someone who cares about helping others.

Please note that the actions the agent takes here are based upon satisfying the agent’s needs for self-fulfillment, not helping the client.

3. We share to advocate for causes we believe in, and less commonly, brands we want to support.
While advocating for important causes is a worthy endeavor, the focus is upon the causes that matter to the agent rather that what matters to the client. The key point to note is that the sharing process yields the best results when you make the shift from sharing what is important to you to sharing what matters to others.

While these three principles are still widely used today, they bomb when used on social media. The reason is simple: They focus on the person broadcasting the message rather than on the consumer. The approach that works best today is give-to-get marketing.

Agents who use the give-to-get marketing approach seek out what matters to others. They then search for ways to help that person satisfy their needs rather than their own needs. This becomes the basis for building trust and creating a relationship that can lead to doing transactions.

The last two items that Brett discussed address this shift to the give-to-get approach that underlies social media marketing success.

4. We share because we enjoy bringing valuable and entertaining content to others.
This concept forms the foundation upon which give-to-get marketing works. For example, assume that you meet someone who is an avid gardener who loves to cook. When you met her, she complains about all the green tomatoes she had just brought in to avoid an early frost. You happen to have your grandmother’s recipe for green tomato cake.

When you share that recipe with her, you form the basis for building a future relationship that can lead to doing business together. If you happen to like gardening as well, you now have a means of sharing more useful information with her, which will continue to build your relationship over time.

Notice that the connection in this case is personal rather than business. In the social media space, most relationships grow based upon how much you engage with others, not how many ads you post for your various listings.

This is also why sites such as YouTube are so popular. When you share a video, your goal is usually to share something that is valuable to the person who receives it or to entertain them. These actions (1) make others feel good about you and (2) increase the probability that when it comes time to do a transaction, they will choose you to represent them.

5. We share to strengthen and nourish our relationships with one another.
Once you acquire a new friend on Facebook or make a connection with a potential client, sharing becomes a way of strengthening your relationship. In fact, the more you share with each other, the stronger the relationship becomes. Brett, like many other researchers, reaffirmed that sharing is the basis for building trust. When people trust you, they are much more likely to do business with you.

Would you like to learn more about using sharing to increase your business? If so, see Part 2 on Monday.

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