Social context shapes the human behavior and sharing information is innate to who we are. We’ve been sharing information for centuries as a means to communicate, entertain, and pass on our cultural values from generation to generation. Today, as we are no longer bound by the physical realm (pencil and paper), the Information Age allows us to share more content, more often with more people, and more quickly.
In order to understand and take advantage of the two-way dialogue between brands and consumers today’s social media technologies enable, it is crucial to understand why people share, the different personas of online sharing, and most importantly, how we, marketers, can influence this sharing of information and generate earned media about our brands and products.
A recent three-phase study, titled “The Psychology of Sharing,” published by The New York Times Customer Insights Group explores the answers to these very questions.
Why do people share?
- to bring valuable and entertaining content to others
- to define ourselves to others
- to grow and nourish relationships
- for self-fulfillment
- to market causes or brands
Six personas of online sharing:
Altruists are helpful, reliable, and thoughtful. Many altruists stay connected with email and pass along information in attachments and links.
Careerists are intelligent web users who have been quick to see the immense value of social networking. Careerists use websites like LinkedIn and FaceBook to build professional profiles and relationships.
Hipsters are young, popular, creative, and prefer the cutting edge of technology. They’re less likely to email, opting for newer, quicker methods of communication, like text, Twitter or Skype message.
Boomerangs share content for validation and reaction. Empowered with information, Boomerangs use social websites like Twitter and Facebook to post thoughtful questions and comments to engage other users.
Connectors are creative, thoughtful, and relaxed. They are likely to make plans via email and Facebook, hook up online discounts, and take advantage of freebies and promotions.
Selectives are resourceful, thoughtful, and careful about the information they share. Someone who is a Selective sharer may prefer to send an email or private message to communicate, rather than a social update or post. These intelligent sharers understand the permanence of everything posted to the web, knowing that every message is indexed, even if you delete it or move it to your desktop trash bin.
Key factors to influence sharing:
If you appeal to the motivation to connect with each other — not with just your brand — you will encourage sharing. Here are some tips to remember when soliciting replies, posts, or other online content.
- keep it simple
- have a sense of humor
- create a sense of urgency
Once you determine what online sharer persona your target audience is and understand what and why they share information, you can create more relevant and appealing content that will inspire ongoing sharing and word-of-mouth buzz.