9 Insights Into What Compels People to Share Online from The NY Times

By eleventy marketing group

Online sharing is an incredibly valuable marketing toolWhen companies and agencies talk about why social media is such a valuable marketing tool, you’ll hear one word repeated over and over: Engagement. Social media is an open conversation with the people you want to reach that doesn’t require someone to open a letter, click on an email, or pick up a phone. They’re just doing what they do every day.

The second key benefit of social marketing may be even more important (or at least open up more possibilities): Sharing. Social media offers the potential to have your message passed along from friend to friend on a nearly infinite basis. For marketers there’s no greater Holy Grail then going viral ala the Ice Bucket Challenge and watching your reach and brand awareness quadruple in days.

In today’s post, we’ll explore what compels people to share content online by looking at some truly fascinating findings from a recent study by The New York Times Customer Insight Group.

About “The Psychology of Sharing” Study

The New York Times Customer Insight Group partnered with Latitude Research to conduct a three-phase study to understand why people share online—which included interviews, a sharing panel, and a survey of 2,500 medium-to-heavy online sharers.

We strongly recommend you check out this report, which is presented in a visual, easy-to-digest format. You can find and download the full “The Psychology of Sharing” study here.

Nine Findings on What Motivates People to Share on the Web

Here are some stats from “The Psychology of Sharing” study that give a glimpse at what could inspire or motivate someone to share a link, deal, video or picture online:

  • 85% say reading other people’s responses helps them understand and process information and events
  • 73% say they process information more deeply, thoroughly and thoughtfully when they share it
  • 94% carefully consider how the information they share will be useful to the recipient
  • 49% say sharing allows them to inform others of products they care about and potentially change opinions or encourage action
  • 68% share to give people a better sense of who they are and what they care about
  • 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
  • 69% share information because it allows them to feel more involved in the world
  • 84% share because it is a way to support causes or issues they care about

Primary Reasons People Choose to Share Information Online

The Psychology of Sharing

So what do these statistics tell us about why people share? And how can we use this information to create more shareable content? While “The Psychology of Sharing” study breaks it down into a number of different motivations, it really comes down to four primary drivers:


To help, entertain or enlighten someone else

For I

To say something about who you are and what you stand for

For WE

To build or maintain a relationship with a person or group


To help, support or draw attention to something you care about

Keep it mind, these are not standalone reasons. They can overlap. For example you can share something for YOU or THEM, that’s also for I. But these are the key sharing drivers.

How Can This Insight Help You Create More Shareable Content?

When you create or disperse social content, look at these four reasons and ask yourself:

  • Why would someone want to share this?
  • How could it help another person?
  • How could sharing this enable a person to make a statement about who they are?
  • How could it help bridge or connect people?
  • How could it inspire passion for helping someone else?

If you have to stretch to find an answer to those questions, your shareability is probably limited. On the other hand, it the answer comes quick and easy—and you can envision exactly the person who would be sharing this and why—your sharing potential is probably pretty good.

Download “The Psychology of Sharing” report from The New York Times Customer Insight Group here