This blog has been sitting on my chest for a couple of months. It all came out of something I had shared on social media and people’s reaction to it. It got me thinking, what drives people to share content online. So I did some research and this is what I came up with.
People share parts of their daily lives everyday. From pictures of their children to their vacation and even their private moments. But what makes us share? Is it that we want recognition for our accomplishments? Is it all about likes, shares and retweets?
Intrinsically, sharing has always been a part of our lives. Before the internet, we shared with our family at dinnertime and our coworkers. We shared our family photo albums to visitors on the couch, so the idea of sharing is not new.
According to The Psychology of How We Share Content, by Jesse Bowman, “To really understand the psychology of sharing, we have to go back to 1966. Long before we had the retweet, Austrian psychologist, Ernest Dichter, published the Harvard Business Review article “How Word-of-Mouth Advertising Works.”
In his article, Dichter outlined four reasons that motivate people to talks about brands and products.
Product Involvement (33%) – The customer’s experience is so pleasurable, it has to be shared.
Self-Involvement (24%) – You, as the sharer, gain attention, feel special like you have inside information or are the first to know.
Other Involvement (20%) – The sharer wants to help others.
Message – Involvement (20%) – The message is so valuable that it has to be shared.
This analysis was helpful in order to understand the psychology of why people share and its incentives. But let’s dig deeper shall we?
The New York Times Customer Insight Group published the study, “The Psychology of Sharing” which divided why we share into five categories and further broke down the personas of people who share into six profiles.
Personas of Sharers (Preferred Channels)
- Altruists – share content to be helpful. (Facebook, Email)
- Careerists – share to build a professional reputation. (Linkedin, Email)
- Hipsters – share cutting edge and creative content that builds their identity. (Facebook, Twitter)
- Boomerangs – share content to get reaction from audience, seeks validation. (Facebook, Twitter)
- Connectors – share content to stay connected with others and make plans. (Facebook, Email)
- Selectives – put more thought into what they share and with whom they share it. (Email)
It’s easy to determine from both studies that people share for their own self-interests. But the last reason why we share, spread the word about causes or brands, touches on another major reason why we share: emotion.
But I think we share because it makes us look good. I also believe that people are natural storytellers, and all great brands also learn to tell stories. If you can learn to tell an interesting story, it will be shared.
Typically what leads a person to share something on social media is when it has a connection to them as an individual, be it political, emotional, cute or funny. People want to share with others how they perceive the world and reflect their tastes and how they define themselves.
So what motivates you to share? Attention? Likes? Comments? Shares? What would you like to share but don’t?