Why do we share content on social networks? And what difference does it make? We take a look at some of the recent research on the psychology of sharing. It shows that sharing valuable and relevant content has a positive impact on us and those with share with. Let’s um, share our insights.
Sharing is the New Search
Sharing has purpose beyond keeping your friends and family up to speed on your social life (yeah, you socially brag. It’s ok, so do we).
It’s where most of us get our news, for starters. Trends show you’re more likely to find information from your social feeds than from going to news sites and publications. Traffic to the home page of the New York Times fell by over 50% from 2011-2013, while traffic from side-doors – people sharing direct links to articles on social networks – increased in that period.
It’s not just the New York Times. Research from Shareaholic showed that the Rubicon was crossed in June 2014: Traffic to their 350,000 sites from shared links in social networks overtook their traffic from search engines.
Parse.ly showed that Facebook in particular now drives more traffic to news websites than Google searches:
What we read is increasingly formed by what others share on social networks. So it’s worth finding out why people do it…
5 Reasons We Share on Social
There’s nothing new about sharing information socially. Water coolers and Campfires predate Twitter and Facebook. It’s part of our nature. but social media makes sharing more immediate, scalable and responsive. The New York Times undertook research last year do understand the drivers for online sharing (from the above charts, you can see why they care).
Here are the key motivations they found:
- Sharing helps us stay smart
73% say they process information more deeply, thoroughly and thoughtfully when they share it
Sharing content is a micro-stake of your reputation. So it’s no surprise we work harder to process and reflect on content before we share it.
Ever read the comments on an article before (or instead of) reading the article? You’re not alone:
85% say reading other people’s responses helps them understand and process information and events
Sharing and commenting are forms of reflection, a key component of effective learning. One survey participant in the research said:
“Sharing information helps me do my job. I remember products and information sources better when I share them and am more likely to use them”
- Sharing adds value to others
Most of us are discerning when we share content. Yes, you can flick on a link without reading the article. But most of us don’t (or don’t admit to it at least). We’re curating content for other people, carefully selecting what we think will be relevant to them.
94% carefully consider how the information they share will be useful to the recipient
“I share to enrich the lives of those around me” says one participant.
- Sharing is self-actualizing
Sharing is at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy (as long as there’s wifi at the bottom). As Charles Leadbeater puts it: “We are what we share”.
68% share to give people a better sense of who they are and what they care about
69% share information because it allows them to feel more involved in the world
Sharing defines our viewpoint and allows us to be members of a tribe with shared interests.
4. Sharing shows our passions
84% share because it is a way to support causes or issues they care about
Sharing also helps us to act as fans, advocates or protesters in a simple, scalable way. We show our passions and get behind causes. Check your Facebook feed during this election cycle to see what it looks like. It’s a key element in what the World Economic Forum described as the Empowered Citizen.
5. Sharing deepens relationships and networks
Content Marketers and Social Sellers know this already: if you share helpful, timely and relevant content, it strengthens your relationships with others. 80% of B2B buyers prefer helpful content from vendors over advertising. But we don’t just share to sell:
78% share information online because it lets them stay connected to people they may not otherwise stay in touch with
73% share information because it helps them connect with others who share their interests
The challenge with sharing: finding the good stuff
Underlying all of this is the search for quality. We prefer to share quality content because it reflects on us. Finding that content can be a challenge. 2 million blog posts are published each day. Which are worth reading, never mind sharing?
Tools like our Anders Pink app can help you more efficiently surface the content that you’re passionate about. You can create a custom briefing on any topic, or choose from thousands. We update the briefings with new, on topic content from around the web every four hours. You can share directly to social networks from the app.
So you’ll never be short of something to share. Try it today for free.