Why Do People Share Online Via Social Media?


Sharing content is not a new concept – it is innate in the human psyche that we thrive off of new information. As stated by the study conducted in the NY Times – The Psychology of Sharing: Why Do People Share Online, “We share more content, from more sources, with more people, more often, and more quickly”. Because society today is no longer confined by limitations of simply pen and paper, with technological advancements in the Information Age, people are able to share online via social media AND brands can take advantage of this amplified Word-of-Mouth communication too!

There are 5 key objectives that indicate why people all across the world are sharing content with each other on a day-to-day basis. These include: Methodology, Motivations for Sharing, Online Sharing Personas, Key Guidelines for Sharing, and Consumer Categories. As marketers, if you understand these, then you can use them to inform content strategies and get your fans sharing content about and from your brand.


1. Methodology: What Is It?

To begin, we must understand Methodology and what it is. We must answer questions like ‘Why people share content online?’, ‘What motivates consumers to share content?’, ‘Are there distinct personalities with different motivations?’, and ‘How can understanding why people share help advertisers?’. The NY Times conducted a quantitative survey with 2,500 medium/heavy online sharers, giving them a wide range of data to work with to help determine the answers to these questions. So while sharing acts as “Information Management”, about 73% of the surveyors indicated that they process information more deeply, thoroughly and thoughtfully when they share it. Additionally, 85% say reading other people’s responses helps them understand and process information as well as events.


2. Motivations For Sharing

So to fully understand why people share, we must first find the ‘Motivations for Sharing’, which bring valuable and entertaining content to others. While 49% say sharing allows them to inform others of products they care about and potentially change opinions or encourage action, 94% of surveyors carefully consider how the information they share will be useful to the recipient. 68% share to give people a better sense of who they are and what they care about while 78% share information online because it lets them stay connected to people they may not otherwise stay in touch with. There is also a sense of self-fulfillment, as 69% of the surveyors share information because it allows them to feel more involved in the world, as well as 84% share because it is a way to support causes or issues they care about. An important key to remember with sharing is that it is all about relationships that are built and that will continue to grow as a result of spreading content.


3. Six Personas of Online Sharers

In addition, there are six personas of online sharers that were determined in the study based on: Emotional Motivations, Desired Presentation of Self, Role of Sharing in Life, and Value of Being First to Share. The first of these were Altruists who share content that consists of being helpful, reliable, thoughtful, connected and their main methods of social media being E-mail. Careerists gear their content towards LinkedIn, networks, as well as information that is intelligent and valuable. Hipsters on the other hand are less likely to E-Mail, however will share information that is cutting edge, creative, popular, and geared towards personal identity. Boomerangs are those who are looking for reactions, validations, and empowerment and do so through primarily Twitter to spark conversation, while also on Facebook for interaction and mentions. Connectors are looking to share creative, relaxed, thoughtful and planned information via E-Mail and Facebook, while Selectives, also using E-Mail, are looking to share resourceful, careful as well as thoughtful content.



4. Key Guidelines

There are several notable key guidelines for getting shared that first entail appeal to consumers’ motivation to connect with each other – not just with your brand. Being knowledgeable as well as respected for your brand and others, as well as the information you are sharing plays a huge impact for getting shared. You want to be trusted by your consumers. You also want to remember to, “Keep it simple, stupid”. Your posts will get shared if you remember to do this to the content you are sharing. Try to also appeal to their sense of humor as well as embracing a sense of urgency. Getting your content shared is just the beginning – get shared, get shared again, listen, get credit for responding, and respond. And remember, E-Mail is still the primary method of sharing content via online methods, so use it!


5. Consumer Categories

Last but not least, there are several consumer categories to appeal to that help spark and create conversation and dialogue through content. To generate more shares and likes, share content that talk about travel, retail and fashion, entertainment, technology and finance because these are the topics that are magnified all across the board and really “appeal to the masses”.


Keep these in mind when you’re creating your content strategy and don’t forget, sharing is caring!


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