It’s safe to say that we like to share content online. In a single minute:
- We send out 277,000 tweets
- Share 2,460,000 pieces of content on Facebook
- Post 216,000 new photos on Instagram
- Upload 72 hours of new video on YouTube
As always, psychology is interested in finding answers to questions of why we behave the way we do. When it comes to social-media sharing, there are several factors which affect why people share:
To convey our identity
Perhaps one of the strongest forces driving our motivation to share is based on our sense of identity more specifically, the desired version of ourselves that we want to project onto the world.
In a social-media sharing study conducted by The New York Times, 68% of respondents said they share to give people a better sense of who they are and what they care about. The psychologist Carl Rogers provided a possible explanation for this, arguing that our personalities are composed of a “Real Self” (who we really are), and an “Ideal Self” (who we want to be).
To nurture relationships
As inherently social creatures, we are naturally inclined to form and maintain social relationships. An additional motivation for sharing online may be driven by our desire to maintain and enrich these relationships. Given the busy nature of our lives and the limited time we have available to socialize, social media provides an easy and convenient way to stay in touch with friends.
For an incentive
As mundane as it may sound, sometimes we share content because we have been bribed with a tempting incentive. For example, we may “like” a page or “share” a post purely to avail ourselves of a discount or to enter a competition. Another recent study showed that 67% of users who “liked” a brand page on Facebook did so simply to become eligible for special offers.
To feel a sense of belonging
Researchers also theorize that we are motivated to share content online in order to feel a greater sense of belonging. In a study conducted by the University of Queensland, an active group of Facebook users were told to engage in normal activity on the site. However, what they didn’t know was that they would be receiving absolutely no response or feedback for their actions. Every comment was left completely unanswered, and every shared post was fr“likes.” At the end of the study, participants reported experiencing significant negative effects on their self-esteem and sense of well-being.
To advocate great content
We all appreciate great content, and sometimes we want to share it to bring value and entertainment to others. In fact, in the New York Times study, 94% of respondents said that they carefully consider how the information they share will be useful to the recipient.
Most people think humor drives sharing, but it’s a hard response to nail and it’s also culturally sensitive. Companies should try to evoke multiple positive responses to make sure that the content resonates again, the more intense the reaction, the better.
All of these evoke some sort of emotion, and this starts the path to virality. Imagine your friend told you a joke or a funny story, chances are that you’d pass that joke or story on to your other friends and they’d soon tell their friends too because they’d want to make their friends laugh too. This is exactly what is happening in the online world when it comes to viral videos so it’s important to incorporate true emotion into your videos.