Why Do People Share Online?

May 15, 2014

A recent study was done by the New York Times’ Consumer Insight Group looked at the psychology behind sharing on social media platforms. It asked three main questions: what motivates consumers to share content, are there distinct personalities with different motivators, and how can this information help advertisers. The study combined in-person interviews in major cities, a sharing panel, and a quantitative study of 2,500 online sharers in order to develop a comprehensive view to answer the questions.

What did they find?

First, sharing is nothing new - but instead of people telling just a few friends about their latest purchases over lunch, they are telling their entire Facebook friends’ list. People share to help enrich the lives of those around them - giving them information they might not have found otherwise. They also use sharing to help people realize what is most important to them - helping show their personalities.

Different types of sharers share different things - for example, altruists may share articles about health and wellness issues, careerists share things related to business interests, and boomerangs post things that are controversial, in order to receive responses.

Some of the most interesting facts from the study?

  • 85% said they read other people’s responses to help them understand and process the information being presented.

  • 49% say that they share information to help change opinions or encourage action in their friends and acquaintances.

  • 73% use sharing to facilitate conversation with those who have similar interests as them.

So, what does this mean for advertisers?

First, they should appeal to consumers’ motivations to connect with each other - not just to connect with the brand. Keeping the subject simple, embracing a sense of urgency, or appealing to the audience’s sense of humor can also help. Responding to customers and adjusting the content they share is also important.

To read the full study, visit: http://nytmarketing.whsites.net/mediakit/pos/

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