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5 Motivations for Sharing Content

Sharing on a social web drives millions of hits for viral videos, motivates people to email humorous articles  and makes content spread at the speed of a “click”.5 Motivations for Sharing Content Online

Humans have always shared.. …it is in our nature but the information age has accelerated that sharing. It is estimated that every 2 days we create as much information as we did since the dawn of time till 2003.

In 60 seconds we find and share vast amounts of content in all its different types of media.

  • Perform nearly 700,000 searches
  • Upload 600 videos to YouTube
  • Share 80,000 Facebook wall posts

We share more content, from more sources with more people than ever before.

Sharing is Powerful

Sharing is powerful online as it is seen as credible and trustworthy and we will believe our friends before a marketing message from a brand.

The New York Times in conjunction with Customer Insight Group and Latitude Research  has released a study which reveals the psychology of sharing. This is first of its kind inquiry into motivations of why people share.

The study wanted to find why campaigns such as “Will it Blend” or the “Old Spice” marketing were so successful and why they were shared.

It looked at why people share online, discovered 6 personas of sharers and what are key factors that influence sharing.  These are all important to marketers to understand why their content is passed around online

5 Motivations for Sharing

According to the study sharing is driven by these 5 motivators.

1. To bring valuable and entertaining content to others

2. To define ourselves to others

3. To grow and nourish our relationships

4. Self -fulfillment

5. To get the word out about causes and brands

In essence it is about relationships both weak and strong.

The Six Personas of Online Sharers

The study also revealed 6 types of personas

1. Altruists

These people were found to be helpful, reliable and used email as their primary sharing medium

Altruist Persona

2. Careerists

LinkedIn was their primary social network and were professionally and career minded and shared ideas on how their company can help their customers.

3. Boomerangs

The boomerangs shared to get a response. They wanted validation and were likely to use Twitter and Facebook.

Boomerang Persona

4. Hipsters

They were the more creative type and wanted to be seen as a leading edge. They were less likely to use email and saw sharing as part of who they are.

5. Connectors

This persona valued making plans and were seen as thoughtful. Preferred communication for sharing was email and Facebook

Connector persona

6. Selectives

They only shared if they believed the information would be relevant for the receiver of the information. They preferred email as their sharing channel.

Key Factors to Influence Sharing

As a marketer these are the primary elements that you need address if you want your ideas and content shared online

  • Appeal to customers motivation to connect with each other – not just your brand
  • Trust is the cost of entry of getting shared
  • Keep it simple and it will get shared – it won’t get muddled
  • Appeal to their sense of humor
  • Embrace a sense of urgency

What was revealing about the study was that despite the hype with sharing on social media, email was still vital in sharing online.

What was also discovered that the act of sharing facilitated a bonus for the sharer with better retention of information.

What have you shared lately?

Jeffbullas's Blog


  • Jamie Sherman

    Thanks so much for the insights.  I have shared them already!

  • Thanks for sharing,

  • Very interesting, and thank you for sharing this. I wonder if it’s wise to align yourself with one of the sharing personalities as a brand marketing strategy. As for me, I identify with all of these personas at various times. Can you be an Altruistic Careerist Selective Hipster Boomerang Connector and still be effective? :^)


  • Lambert

    Like your insights Jeff & very good points on the one.  I recently started a blog…..and that would be #4 Self-fulfillment.  No idea really where I’m eventually going with it but it just feels good & fills a need.


    Aren’t there people who are just plain showoffs?  It certainly seems that way, judging from some of the posts I’ve read.

  • Jeff, this is interesting. I just posted on Thursday about the explosion of sharing and the “need” to share that social media has created actually lowering the quality standards for what we share. The way you outlined it here gives some additional color to my post. 

    It seems nourishing relationships and self-fulfillment may be driving an increase in personal sharing in social media. The level of social media noise is then driving an increased AMOUNT of sharing in order to meet these motivations. Very interesting perspective added to what I have been considering lately, thanks!

    (Here is my post, Social Media is Lowering our Content Standards, from earlier this week: http://digitalb2b.wordpress.com/2011/09/01/social-media-is-lowering-our-content-standards/ )

  • Notjudith Dex


  • Andy Drinkwater – iNET SEO

    Great read Jeff. Never really thought about the personas of those who share or that we share with. Opens up some interesting questions 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Excellent read! I think I’m a 1,2, and 5. Different motivations for different content!

  • Completely agreed, Martin. It certainly is causing bloggers and content producers to think differently about what they are publishing.

  • Amy

    Hi Jeff. This is great insight for marketers. Thanks for sharing. I am happy to have discovered your blog.

  • Marcelina Hardy

    Oh this is so awesome. Thanks so much for sharing – it makes me appreciate my work as a writer even more. Thanks again.

  • barry knister

    Isn’t it strange how people are moved to share on the Internet, in a time in which generosity is looked on by many as providing free handouts to the undeserving.

  • Sharing is the best way to become known and to build relationships with others. Success in the blogosphere is based on reciprocity. Great article!

  • Though I remain a poor poet, sharing Poetry.PoetPatriot.com has made me the favorite of many across the nation and overseas.

  • Social networking has become all about sharing these days. Mostly it’s good but sometimes it gets abused.

  • Great insights Jeff! Sharing content is imperative in the business world nowadays. Businesses need to be seen as knowledgeable and experts in their field, and they do this by sharing valuable and helpful information to those searching for the answers. We’ve written a blog post about “How to share content and engage potential customers to increase sales” http://www.designsmoothie.com/how-share-content-and-engage-potential-customers-increase-sales which I feel will effectively compliment your post. Thanks again for sharing!