Research Reveals Secrets of Social Sharing

How can you get more people to share more of your blog posts, Tweets and Facebook posts? Ironically, the answer lies in a 50-year-old psychological study.

Fifty years before the iPhone and social media took over our lives, an Austrian-born psychologist and market researcher cracked the code on a marketing challenge every business faces today: How to encourage people to tell others about their products and services. Whether it’s called word-of-mouth or social sharing, getting consumers to share with others is the Holy Grail for any marketer.

In 1966, Ernest Dichter, who was trained by one of Sigmund Freud’s pupils, conducted research on what makes shoppers tick. His findings transformed the way the world looks at relationships between products and consumers. It was the first international and interdisciplinary study to reveal the hidden world of motivation research and insights into the way consumers think, feel and act. Since then, others (including The New York Times) have built on his findings.

What Dichter Discovered About Social Selling

Dichter discovered there are four motivations for consumer sharing, but they boil down to two primary reasons people share: You’ve blown them away with your product experience, or you’ve made them feel good in some way.

Dichter’s four motivations for social sharing include product involvement, self-involvement, other involvement and message involvement.

  1. Product Involvement. About 33 percent of sharing is based on a good product experience. The customer found the experience to be so delightful or fulfilling they had to tell their friends. This is why some companies’ Facebook pages are filled with happy consumers. Take Starbucks, for instance, where people share pictures of their daily cups of coffee.
  1. Self-Involvement. This comprises about 24 percent of shares. People share content that expresses their knowledge and opinions, and makes them feel smart—like breaking news and political issues.
  1. Other Involvement. About 20 percent of sharing fits here. People want to help a friend by sharing, for example, coupons or product reviews.
  1. Message Involvement. This makes up about 20 percent of shares. It’s triggered when someone finds a message so humorous or informative they want to share it. Cat videos and memes fall into this category.

Fast Forward to 2004

In 2004, results from a study conducted by four researchers, published in the Journal of Interactive Marketing, referenced Dichter’s research and others, and added an electronic component to the analysis. While the researchers found eight factors that contribute to word-of-mouth sharing, they all strongly correlate to Dichter’s original findings, with three new incentives for sharing—venting negative emotions, receiving a positive platform assistance and gaining economic incentives.

But what is most insightful about this study is the discovery of four primary segments of people who share online. This insight could be viewed as a precursor to today’s buyer persona creation.

  • Segment 1—Self-Interested Helpers. These content sharers appear to be strongly driven by both concern for others and economic incentives. This segment is the largest group, representing 34 percent of all sharers.
  • Segment 2—True Altruists. These consumers appear to be both strongly motivated by helping other consumers as well as helping companies, because all other motives are less important. This is the second largest segment, representing 27 percent of the sharers.
  • Segment 3—Multiple-Motive Consumers. They are motivated by all factors, except economic incentives. This segment includes 21 percent of all sharers.
  • Segment 4—Consumer Advocates. They seem to be motivated primarily by a concern for other consumers. It is the smallest segment at 17 percent of all sharers.

New York Times’ 2011 Study Findings

One of the most frequently shared recent studies on the topic of why people share content online is a report compiled by The New York Times. The Psychology of Sharing revealed people’s motivations for sharing, six sharing personas and best practices for encouraging consumers to share content.

Regarding sharing motivations, the study concluded that the primary reasons for sharing were linked to relationships—improving others’ lives, defining themselves to others, enriching relationships and gaining fulfillment. This aspect of the survey correlated strongly to Dichter’s original findings.

The study also cited several statistics on what inspires and motivates people to share links, videos, images and offers online, including:

  • 85 percent say reading other people’s responses helps them understand and process information and events
  • 84 percent share because it is a way to support causes or issues they care about
  • 78 percent share information online because it lets them stay connected to people they may not otherwise stay in touch with
  • 73 percent share information because it helps them connect with others who share their interests
  • 73 percent say they process information more deeply, thoroughly and thoughtfully when they share it
  • 69 percent share information because it allows them to feel more involved in the world
  • 68 percent share to give people a better sense of who they are and what they care about
  • 49 percent say sharing allows them to inform others of products they care about and potentially change opinions or encourage action

NYT Survey Breaks New Ground on Sharers

A groundbreaking aspect of the New York Times study was that researchers could determine which areas of the brain were triggered during the sharing process. From this insight, they formulated six online sharer personas defined by emotional motivations, desired presentation of self, and role of sharing in life. Along with two more sharer types than the 2004 study, this study also revealed more sharer insights.

  • Altruists. These sharers are helpful and reliable. They are motivated to share by being seen as thoughtful and connected. Their primary sharing vehicle is email.
  • Careerists. These sharers are valuable and networked. They are motivated to share by being seen as intelligent. Their primary sharing vehicle is LinkedIn.
  • Hipsters. These sharers are young and popular. They are motivated to share by being seen as cutting-edge and creative. You will find them using multiple social sharing vehicles, but not email.
  • Collectors. These sharers are relaxed, thoughtful and always making plans. They are motivated to share by being seen as creative. Their primary sharing vehicles are email and Facebook.
  • Selectors. These sharers are resourceful and careful. They are motivated to share by being seen as thoughtful and informative. Their preferred sharing vehicle is email.
  • Boomerangs. These sharers respond to reaction, validation and empowerment. Their primary sharing vehicles are Twitter and Facebook.

The New York Times study also detailed seven best practices that contribute to encouraging more customers to share more content.

  1. Sharing is how consumers connect with one another. Appeal to consumers’ motivation to connect with others, not just with your brand.
  1. Trust is the cost of entry for getting shared. If consumers don’t see you as an authority they can trust, they won’t share your content.
  1. Keep it simple. Publish content on a highly focused topic. This boosts your brand and helps you stand out in a crowded marketplace.
  1. Appeal to their sense of humor. A little personality and humor can make a big difference.
  1. Embrace a sense of urgency. If there’s an element of urgency in your content, it appears valuable. As a result, people are more likely to share it.
  1. Getting content shared is just the beginning. One share is not the endgame. You need to continue to support sharing, and even reach out and say thank you now and then.
  1. Email is still No. 1. In a world dominated by social media, don’t forget about email. It’s still the primary way people communicate. So consider making it easy for your readers to share your content via email with a click (unless they are hipsters, of course).

Don’t Forget About Quality Content

And finally, a study conducted by Ogilvy & Mather in 2014 condensed global insight on sharing into one primary takeaway—to encourage content sharing you must produce high-quality content.

The study also identified companies leading the way in producing shareable, quality content by country. In the United States, for example, companies taking the lead include: Huffington Post, Upworthy, Apple, NPR, Buzzfeed, The New York Times, Mother Jones, Humane Society, Amazon, Drudge Report, NPR, PBS, Kraft, ESPN and PETA.

While the world we live in today is very different than it was 50 years ago, a review of the research conducted since Dichter’s groundbreaking study shows that our motivations for sharing have stayed relatively the same. The biggest difference between the world then and now is how much content is created every day, how much content is shared and how frequently it’s shared.

To stand out in this crowded social world requires a strategy that takes into consideration the insight shared by leading voices on the subject. Understanding the motivational forces behind the act of sharing—and working with them in mind—is the best way to help your company get more of your content shared more often by more people.


This article was written by Karen Taylor from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

5 Questions to Ask Before Investing in a Media Monitoring Tool

A media monitoring tool is increasingly becoming the must have accessory for every communication professional. Companies are relying on such tools to shed light on a range of situations, for example:

  • Analyses of brand or executive mentions
  • Tracking the success of press releases
  • Competitive and trend analysis
  • Performance reviews
  • Crisis communication

Whilst having a media monitoring tool makes our jobs a whole lot easier, the search for the perfect one can be a painstaking process. So, to help kick-start the search, here are five important questions to consider before making an investment.

Do I need a media monitoring provider who tracks global content?

The answer to this question depends on the company needs, and therefore varies from business to business. Just because a brand is only mentioned locally doesn’t mean to say its competitors are in the same boat and if competitive benchmarking is the aim, global should be the game. If industry trends and though leadership is a priority then it’s also important to look beyond local waters as trends aren’t confined to one region. Whilst there may not be a need for global coverage at the moment, it only takes one post to go viral for things to change. Consider a provider who offers global media monitoring and access to a vast range of news and social media sources to avoid having to repeat the search for another tool if the situation does change.

Does the provider offer local support?

Knowing that the media monitoring provider has your back during a time of need (and during local working hours) is the perfect comfort blanket. If a crisis was to explode, waiting until the other side of the world has woken up and come online just isn’t good enough. During the search for a media monitoring tool, ensure local support needs are considered. Local support allows users to benefit from faster response times, expertise of domestic markets and similar industries, as well as providing the opportunity for face to face consultations.

Is there a one-stop-shop option available?

Having a one-stop-shop media monitoring tool that offers online news, print, TV, an influencer database, radio and social all under one roof will heavily streamline the reporting process though the analysis of comparable data. The look and feel of reports will be very similar, the setup and collation of data more efficient, the cost of having 1 platform rather than 3 is cheaper… oh, and a few less passwords to remember!

Can we create customised dashboards?

We shouldn’t be reporting for reporting’s sake. Reports should be meaningful, to everybody involved. By investing in a media monitoring tool that allows personalised dashboards, we’re able to remove irrelevant content that our boss isn’t interested in seeing. Meltwater’s media intelligence platform offers fully customisable dashboards in a visually appealing format, and in real time. We’ve moved beyond static graphs and into media intelligence that constantly ticks over by analysing in the background. In effect, the interactive dashboards keep a finger on the pulse of all campaigns running. Efficient, you could say.

Can we access retrospective data?

Past data is just as important to us as current. By investing in a media monitoring tool that offers an archive option, we’re able to benefit from organising data for benchmark purpose by region, event or competitor, for example. Moreover, if you decide to leave the provider you know the data isn’t lost and can be easily accessed if needs be.

There are a ton more questions we must consider when investing in a media monitoring tool, but the above 5 are a great place to start when screening potential providers. Contact a Meltwater consultant here and learn more about how a tool can help take your marketing and PR efforts to new heights. 

Media Monitoring as a Research & Development Tool

Research and development is the bricks and mortar of any successful business. Brands such as Google, Johnson & Johnson, and Volkswagen invest billions of pounds in this function every year, according to Fortune. Having billions to spend on R&D is a luxury that many companies simply don’t have, but thanks to media monitoring there’s a much cheaper way to carry out research.

Media monitoring to inform product development 

The social sphere is a researcher’s goldmine waiting to be tapped into, but where do we start? A social media monitoring tool can act as our compass and help us find direction in a sea of data. Social media monitoring can contribute to product development in a number of ways through the analysis of real, honest feedback. For example, unearthing audience wants and needs to help facilitate new product strategy. Social media monitoring can also help find faults in existing products so we can use the insights to plug the threat before our competition gets there first.

The aim of product development is to reflect the needs of the market and our audience, so it’s time to listen up and hear them out. Click here to view our previous post and find out examples of brands that are using social media monitoring for product development.


Competitor analysis 

Keeping a finger on your competition’s pulse is vital if we want to become or remain a player our competitors fear. By using a media monitoring tool, such Meltwater, we can filter conversations by sentiment and shed light on the failure and successes of our competition. Positive comments tell us the areas where they excel so we can replicate. Negative sentiment allows us to understand where they’ve failed so we can avoid doing the same. We can also filter geographic spread into the competitive benchmark analysis. If for example we know our main competitor is receiving a lot of press in China, chances are high that there’s also a need for our service in this location. Additional benchmarking metrics to consider include:

  • Media exposure
  • Trending theme word cloud
  • Share of voice
  • Top sources


Trend analysis

Research and development is a high level strategic function. Whilst it can be easy to become engrossed in what’s going on with our audience and in our industry, it’s also important to look future afield. A media monitoring tool is essential to use when conducting a macro analysis. Future changes in the economy, technological landscape and law can have a tremendous impact on future strategy throughout all corporate functions, not just R&D. It’s better to be informed than be sorry, right?

Click here to chat with a Meltwater consultant and learn additional ways a media monitoring tool can help with strategic decision making.