Social Media Study: The Psychology of Sharing

Candice Claassen

Candice Claassen

Posted on December 18, 2014

Digital sharing boils down to relationships. Creating a popular post requires not only connecting with your audience but, more importantly, appealing to your audience’s motivation to connect with each other. A recent New York Times study delineated six personas of online sharers as defined by their emotional motivations, desired self-presentation, role of sharing in life, and value of being the first to share.  The results include:

  1. Altruists: helpful, reliable, e-mail, thoughtful, connected.

  2. Careerists: LinkedIn, valuable, intelligent, network.

  3. Hipsters: less likely to email, cutting edge, creative, identity, young, popular.

  4. Boomerangs: controversial, reaction, validation, empowered, Twitter, Facebook.

  5. Connectors: creative, relaxed, thoughtful, making plans, email, Facebook.

  6. Selectives:  only share relevant info. with specific friends, resourceful, thoughtful, informative, e-mail.

The three factors that tend to determine a post’s likelihood of being shared are simplicity, humor and urgency. Additionally, 84% of responders said they share because it is a way to support causes or brands they care about. The study also found that the engaging nature of social media inspires in-depth consideration of new information and how it pertains to oneself and one’s peers. 85% of responders said that reading other people’s responses to social media posts helps them understand and process information and events. 73% said they process information more deeply when they share it.

Social media activity is the result of how information relates to each user’s self-curated social identity. Once you get inside the head of your ideal audience, shares can be quite predictable. Engagement tracking tools like Facebook Insights and Universal Analytics can provide richer insight into how your audience defines itself on social media and what motivates them to share information.

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