Since the dawn of consciousness, we have thrived as a species through communication and sharing. While the desire and psychology behind our actions have remained the same, our channels of communication have changed. We not only have found new ways to express our thoughts but have amplified the reach, as well, of what we share. Pictures on the wall, written scriptures, letters, telegraph, telephone, radio were/are effective mediums & some of them are still used widely, however, one innovation that has greatly influenced our communication paradigms is Social Media.

Most of us use social media to connect, engage, build relationships, learn new things, get updates on the latest news, & much more. Never before we had one medium to do all. With rapid advancements in technology in the last decade, ~ 30% of the world population is present on social media today, & many more are adopting it as we solve for internet penetration beyond cities and few geographies. Today, there is a tremendous variety of social networking sites and many of them can be linked to allow cross-posting. This has allowed us to reach the maximum number of people at a drop of a hat.

Naturally, this opens a vast ocean of opportunities for businesses to do business, and understandably, businesses are excited to unlock this goldmine of opportunities. But to access this channel effectively, it is important to understand “Why People Share on Social Media Platforms?

We all use social media differently, and that is what makes it intriguing. Seeing the power of social media, it is important to understand the hidden motivations. Through this understanding, businesses can better assess their communication strategy and influence their targeted audience to engage and share your content, growing your brand in the process.

As per research by the New York Times Customer Insight Group there are top 5 reasons why people share on social. These reasons are eye-opening and pretty surprising. Reasons are:

  1. To bring valuable and entertaining content to others. 49% say sharing allows them to inform others of products they care about and potentially change opinions or encourage action
  2. To define ourselves to others. 68% share to give people a better sense of who they are and what they care about
  3. To grow and nourish our relationships. 78% share information online because it lets them stay connected to people they may not otherwise stay in touch with
  4. Self-fulfillment. 69% share information because it allows them to feel more involved in the world
  5. To get the word out about causes or brands. 84% share because it is a way to support causes or issues they care about
Graphics Credit: Collective-Evolution

Self-fulfillment and Supporting a cause are inter-related as we feel good about ourselves and feel more involved in the world when we support a cause or a brand we believe in.

It was also found that some users share as an act of “information management.” 73% of respondents said that they process information more deeply, thoroughly and thoughtfully when they share it.

Research further broke down the personas of people who share into six profiles:

  1. Altruists — share content to be helpful
  2. Careerists — share to build a professional reputation
  3. Hipsters — share cutting edge and creative content that builds their identity
  4. Boomerangs — share content to get reaction from audience, seeks validation
  5. Connectors — share content to stay connected with others and make plans
  6. Selectives — put more thought into what they share and with whom they share it

Whether it’s to entertain friends or build professional relationships, we share for our own self-interests or status. But the last reason why we share, spread the word about causes or brands, touches on another major reason why we share: emotion.

Graphics Credit: Collective-Evolution

Jonah Berger, Wharton School professor and author of the New York Times bestseller, “Contagious: Why Things Catch On”, after analyzing 7000 articles on the New York Times, discovered there were two primary factors that lead an article to be one of the newspaper’s most emailed articles: how positive the article was and how excited it made the reader.

Berger’s research focuses on six principles that cause something to be wildly shared and go viral:

  • Social Currency: We share things that make us look good
  • Triggers: Easily memorable information means it’s top of mind and tip of the tongue.
  • Emotion: When we care, we share.
  • Public: Built to show, built to grow.
  • Practical Value: News people can use.
  • Stories: People are inherent storytellers, and all great brands also learn to tell stories. Information travels under the guise of idle chatter.

Emotion is a two-sided coin. Negative emotion can ignite social sharing just as much as a positive emotion. Outrage is a feeling that can cause people to share just as much as a funny video. Emotion is a huge part of sharing, the key is to hit one end of the positive or negative spectrum. Anything that falls between gets lost with the rest of the average content.

Hence, status and emotion are the two driving forces behind sharing. It doesn’t matter which sharing persona you fit, everyone is motivated by these two factors when they share something online.

In the words of Joe Matsushima, Viral Marketer “Sharing is a fascinating phenomenon because liking–or even loving something doesn’t necessarily lead to sharing it with your peers. 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.

What does this mean for businesses?

Ask yourself this question before you create your content, Who the content is for? How will it make my customer feel? Will sharing make them seem smarter to their friends? Does it elicit emotions that they have to share? If you answer these questions right, you have a recipe for a viral content that can bring a lot of visibility to your brand.

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If you like this article and feel that I have added some value to you, please share this article with your friends & colleagues.

I am passionate about Marketing, Consumer Behavior & Psychology, Digital Marketing, Entrepreneurship.

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I am a self-taught digital marketer who loves to build funnels of traffic and help organizations achieve fast business growth by gaining customers at profitable ROIs. I deeply understand Google Ads, Facebook Ads platforms and have above average understanding of Search Engine Optimization. I have a growth-mindset towards life and I invest a lot of my time, energy and money in continuing my learning journey to become the best Digital Marketers out there. I am an Advanced Scuba Diver and Yoga Practitioner (Certified). I love exploring new places, bike rides, local cuisines. My life motto is: Never Never Give Up

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Why People Share On Social Media Platforms? 6th May 2019

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