The Psychology Behind Social Sharing

Content Marketing Marketing Tools & Tips Social Media Best Practices

In marketing, we strategize, plan and create great content to capture our audience’s attention. We try to provide our target market with valuable and timely information in hopes that one day they will become customers. Creating great content is the first step in reaching your audience.

One way to measure content quality is by amplification, or how much it’s shared on social media. We see two halves to this metric; the first being great content and the second of which many of us aren’t considering–what motivates your audience to share it. Sharing may have a lot more to do with what drives our audience than whether we created compelling content (insert ‘I can has Cheezeburger?’ here).

Naturally, we think all the content we spend time reading is compelling, yet we don’t share all of it. We only share a small amount. So what’s the difference between sharing and not sharing? This question left us wondering what else we should know about what motivates people to share, not just what they like to consume.

What motivates people to share content?

According to a study conducted by The New York Times, 85% of readers say sharing content helps people better understand the information they read, and 73% say that it helps them process the information more deeply, thoroughly, and thoughtfully.

Moreover, people share to reinforce relationships with others. Sharing content that is entertaining or valuable to family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues help to nourish and grow those relationships. It makes us feel more connected, thoughtful and appreciated.  

For many, sharing also helps create an image to the world about who they are and what is important to them. Some may want to appear intelligent, professional or provocative, and sharing content can help them achieve that. It’s another platform for people to present themselves in a preferred light.

Lastly, it gives folks a channel they can use to express the things they care about in their lives. People care about people, causes, things, and brands. These people are the advocates and evangelists of the world who are getting the word out about a new product, rallying their network around something they care about and supporting a cause.

Are there distinct personalities with different motivations?

There are six online “sharer personas” according to the research done by The New York Times Customer Insight Group. These personas are built on four fundamental motivators:

6 Sharing Personas Infographic

How can understanding why people share help marketers?

Understanding the “why” is the part of the equation that most of us tend to forget. Identifying which persona(s) your audiences identify with will help you appeal to their motivation to connect with each other – not just with your brand. You can create quality content that is more likely to be amplified when you have a better understanding of what motivates your readers to share.

Curious to know how to identify your audience? Read how Perfect Bar identified their most passionate and engaged audience, and then pivoted their content strategy to create content their audience wants, likes, and shares. 

In your experience, what kind of content gets shared the most? Share your best kept secrets in the comments section below!

Danica Benson

Originally from the Portland Metro Area, Danica migrated north to work as a marketer in the startup arena after earning her MBA. She’s a small business advocate bringing her passion to the tech world. Outside of the office, Danica spends her free time on outdoor adventures and exploring the great city of Seattle.

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