Why Do People Share?

The New York Times Customer Insight Group has put out a very comprehensive study titled “The Psychology of Sharing: Why Do People Share Online?”  The report identifies our motivations behind sharing, if there are certain personalities more likely to share content, and what this all could mean for advertisers. (Download report here.)

The concept of sharing is nothing new.  We have hopefully all been taught the value of sharing from a very young age.  The difference is the reach and the ease of sharing has changed: online sharing is fast and extensive.  Because of this, we share more content, more often.

The group surveyed are classified as “medium /heavy online sharers”.   Some results are as follows:

  • 73% agreed they processed information more deeply and thoroughly when they shared it.
  • 85% said that reading other people’s responses helps them understand and process information and events.
  • A whopping 94% of participants said they share because they think the information is useful to the recipient – they want to help.

Sharing has made us hyper-aware of the things that we do.  We want to tell people about them because we want to enrich the lives of others.  This was the number one reason for sharing, behind “nourishing relationships”, “supporting causes or issues” and “self-fulfillment”.  Fittingly, one personality type that’s inclined to share is an altruist.  These people are simply trying to be helpful, thoughtful and stay connected.

For marketers, the altruists are the group you most want to focus on.  The study instructs brands to “appeal to consumers’ motivation to connect with each other” not just with the brand.  Trust and simplicity are mentioned as well, as is a nod to the fact that e-mail is still the number one way people share content.

Social recommendations are the currency of the future.  More and more people are not only sharing information online – but they are relying on it to make informed purchase decisions.  As a brand, you need to allow your customers the opportunity to share an experience, product or deal through social means.

-Lucy Arnold, Marketing Intern, Zuberance