The Psychology of Sharing

August 15, 2011 11:58 am

Sharing content can boost a brand’s profile – but what does it say about you?

The New York Times Customer Insights and Advertising Groups have released the results of research conducted into the motivations for people sharing online. The extensive study surveyed 2500 medium/heavy online sharers to discover what prompted them to share content with their networks.

The study was a three-phase approach and looked not only at the motivations for sharing, but also at the different personas of people who share online. There were several significant – if not surprising – findings, all of which are especially valuable for brands looking to get their content shared.


Sharing motivators

Five motivations for sharing online were identified, including:

• ‘To bring valuable and entertaining content to others’;
• ‘To define ourselves to others’;
• ‘To grow and nourish our relationships’;
• ‘Self-fulfilment’;
• ‘To get the word out about our causes or brands’.

It is interesting to see that most of the motivators were driven not only by relationships, but also by the value they added to the person doing the sharing.

The study also found that an overwhelming 73% of people surveyed said that they felt they processed information more thoroughly when they shared it. Additionally, 85% said that they understood issues more fully when they read other people’s responses to them through blog posts and comments.

Sharer personas

The study found that people who share online can generally be divided into six categories. It outlined the characteristics of these personas and their reasons for sharing:

Altruists – These goodie-goodies are more likely to share in order to benefit others, are often thoughtful, reliable and connected. They’re the people you’ll have a conversation with about wanting to know more about Feng Shui, and then a week later will share a link to seven different ‘Intro to Feng Shui’ classes.
Careerists – The work-minded careerist is more likely to share things that relate to their industry or add value to their business offering. They’re often intelligent networkers who share things like webinars, relevant articles or industry meet-ups.
Hipsters – The Buddy Holly glasses-wearing, fixed-gear bike-riding members of the sharing community are likely to be young, creative and motivated by self-expression and identity. The hipster usually shares obscure, trendy links. These are the people in your network who direct you towards that cult ’70s film or the fashion label that uses only Peruvian Yak hair in its designs.
Boomerang – Likely to share in order to evoke a reaction, in order to stimulate engagement from their network and promote discussion. Whether it’s posting a provocative article or controversial video, the boomerang thrives on reactions.
Connectors – These social butterflies share to promote further connections, whether it’s a movie they want to see, a bar they’d been talking about with a friend or a new restaurant they want to try out. Sharing online facilitates real-world connections for the connector.
Selectors — These picky individuals only share if they stumble upon something truly worth it. They tend to share with individuals instead of their networks, and share only information they deem relevant to that individual.

Between the various personas and their sharing motivators, there are several valuable insights for brands. In essence, content worth sharing needs to add value in some way –whether it’s informative, provocative, topical or just too damn funny not to share.

Brands need to think not only about their target markets, but also about how those target markets want to appear, and consequently create content that will aid in their self-expression.


The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.

Image Source: Info Barrel



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