Like it or Not, That Article You Shared May Inspire Your Friends to Buy

When was the last time you read a great article and couldn't resist tweeting it? And how many times have you clicked on that irresistible headline that a friend shared? How about singing praises for your new iPad or asking your Facebook friends for advice on a big purchase?

Turns out the content we share and consume online is worth more than a few minutes of entertainment. Recent research from ShareThis found that this content does, in fact, have a measurable impact on consumer spending habits - outpacing both brand and price in terms of influence on purchase decisions, and in some cases motivating buyers to spend 9.5 percent more on big-ticket items like cars and even smaller purchases like groceries.

Sharing is the connective thread of the social web - across platforms and devices - and has become second nature to all of us. At the same time, the proliferation of mobile devices and apps has changed the way people find, consume and share information. In fact, according to Mary Meeker's 2014 Internet Trends, global mobile usage as a percentage of total web usage is now 25 percent, up from 14 percent in May 2013. This has dramatically increased opportunities for publishers - opening up new markets and paving the way for deeper user engagement and increased monetization.

So what do businesses need to know to get the most out of social sharing and take advantage of the business opportunities inherent in good content marketing? Whether you're a mommy blogger looking for advertising dollars from Johnson & Johnson, or you're Johnson & Johnson trying to reach consumers through compelling branded content, here are three things to consider to get readers to share and, ultimately, buy:

Engagement is Everything: The best content marketers make it easy for readers to not just read but also engage with and share their content. As the social activity around content increases, it feeds a virtuous cycle of deeper insights that help create better social content in the future. Businesses must generate content that is attention worthy, relevant and remarkable to get people to engage. This is particularly important on mobile, where the nature of the device dictates a lot. Your readers are mobile. Make sure they can engage with content on every device they use.

Look Beyond Facebook: One of the biggest traps for content publishers is focusing only on Facebook and Twitter, which typically represent about half of all social referrals. In 2013, sharing to Pinterest grew faster than sharing to Facebook. In a sign of how quickly social media has changed the digital landscape, consumers are now "pinning" articles, photos and recipes to share with friends more often than emailing links. And according to Meeker's report, total "pins" are up 50 percent since 2013. All of this signals a major shift in where and how consumers are sharing content. When it comes to gleaning business value from sharing, knowing all the channels your readers use will ensure that the content you want out there will get in front of the right people.

Love Thy Data: The fragmentation of media has made the consumer engagement incredibly complex. New devices and platforms alter or expand how consumers interact with content, which makes it increasingly important to understand and respond rapidly to audiences preferences. Knowing how content performs across devices and the entire social web based on rich data and insights is the only way to justify, measure and increase monetization.

At the end of the day, content is a currency, and it is driving the sharing economy. Our research showed that a strong positive online recommendation can add, on average, $3,700 to the price that a consumer is willing to pay for a vehicle and $0.75 to the price of a typical supermarket item. Compelling, relevant, authentic content (and not advertising disguised as content) can lead to positive recommendations and drive sales. Getting that content in front of consumers - wherever they are - is the first step.

Paul Lentz, SVP of ShareThis, is responsible for developing a more effective means for the 2 million+ publishers that make up the ShareThis network to deepen user engagement and increase monetization through our arsenal of social sharing tools.