The science of social sharing is a blend of psychology and sociology which helps explains how factors like our desire for social connection and validation will influence us to share content with other individuals on social media platforms.
Dec 31, 2023
Social Media Marketing
Social Media Strategy
Social sharing is rooted in the psychological need for connection, validation, and self-expression. It plays a critical role in how we interact, form relationships, and situate ourselves within our social environments. This complex interplay of psychological factors underscores the importance of social sharing in the fabric of human social interaction. Human beings are inherently social creatures, and sharing information is a fundamental aspect of human interaction. Understanding how individual content is shared can be much easier when understanding the different factors that drive consumers to share content with other users on social media platforms.
Inherent Social Nature of Humans
As social creatures, humans have an innate need to connect with others. This need drives us to share experiences, ideas, and emotions. Sharing information is more than just a communicative act; it's a way to establish and maintain our place within our social circles. It's rooted in the evolutionary advantage of sharing knowledge and experiences for the collective benefit and survival of the community.'
Desire for Social Connection
Sharing serves as a bridge to connect with others. Whether it’s sharing personal stories, news, or interests, these acts foster a sense of belonging and strengthen bonds between individuals. This connection can occur in various contexts, from close relationships to broader communities where individuals seek a sense of belonging.
Validation and Reinforcement
When people share content and receive positive feedback (like comments, likes, or shares), it reinforces their behavior and provides a sense of validation. This feedback loop can be quite powerful, encouraging continued sharing and engagement. It's a way of receiving social approval, which is a fundamental human motivation.
Maintenance and Building of Social Capital
Social sharing is also a means of building and maintaining social capital. By sharing valuable, interesting, or entertaining content, individuals can enhance their reputation and status within their social networks. It's a way of contributing something of perceived value, which in turn can elevate their standing or influence in the eyes of others.
Expression of Identity and Values
What people choose to share often reflects their identity, beliefs, and values. By sharing specific types of content, individuals communicate aspects of who they are, what they stand for, and what they find important. This expression of identity is crucial in shaping how others perceive them and in finding like-minded individuals who share similar values or interests.
Sharing can also have intrinsic benefits for the individual’s psychological well-being. It can be a form of self-expression or a way to process and make sense of their experiences. Sharing personal achievements or milestones, for instance, can be a way of chronicling and celebrating personal growth.
Word of Mouth Advertising
In the context of marketing, our understanding of social media sharing can be traced to a 1966 article in Harvard Business Review by Austrian psychologist Ernest Dichter, "How Word-of-Mouth Advertising Works." Dichter identified four key motivators for brand and product discussions, and noted that consumers are more receptive to advertising that they perceived as friendly advice. Each of these motivations illustrates different aspect of why people engage in social sharing and highlight a complex interplay of personal satisfaction, social dynamics, and a sense of responsibility, all of which contribute to the tapestry of human interactions through social media.
33% of sharing is driven by product involvement, where the experience with a product or service is so positive that they feel an urge to share this joy with others. This sharing is fueled by genuine enthusiasm for the product or service.
24% of social sharing arises from self-involvement, where the individual aims to gain attention and appear unique, often seeking to be recognized as an expert or an early adopter. This type of sharing reflects a desire for status and recognition.
20% of social sharing is motivated by a desire to help or provide value to others. This altruistic sharing involves disseminating information that could be beneficial or enlightening for one's network.
20% of social sharing is driven by the value or importance of the message. When content is particularly meaningful, people feel compelled to share it, often for topics like social causes, political movements, or inspirational stories.
Motivations for Social Sharing
"The Psychology of Sharing" is a well-known study from The New York Times which adds contemporary dimensions to our understanding of social sharing. This research identified five key motivations for sharing, all of which emphasize the importance of interpersonal relationships. The results of the study suggest that marketers should tailor their content strategies to nurture individual connections. It also identified six distinct sharing personas, each characterized by specific emotional drives, self-presentation goals, and the importance they attach to being the first person to share a given piece of content.
Delivering Value and Entertainment
94% of social media users share content to provide information, entertainment, and assistance to their connections. This motivation reflects the desire to bring useful and enjoyable content to others.
Defining Personal Identity
Around 68% of people use social media as a platform to showcase their unique identities and interests. This form of sharing serves as a digital expression of one’s self and personal brand.
Growing and Nurturing Relationships
Social sharing is a tool for relationship building, with 73% using it to connect with individuals who share similar interests. Additionally, 78% engage in social sharing to stay in touch with people they might otherwise lose contact with.
Self-Fulfillment through Sharing
Sharing content on social media is also seen as a means of self-fulfillment, enhancing the sharer’s sense of connection to the wider world. It serves as a platform for personal expression and engagement.
Advocating Causes or Brands
Social media users often share content to advocate for causes or brands they support. This form of sharing helps spread awareness and shows users' support for various ideas and principles they hold dear.