Viral Content Sharing Report: Motivations

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I was most excited by the two free-form type-in response boxes that asked the question “What makes you want to share web content.” I posited this question for both individual sharing and one-to-many sharing and poured over the answers to identify common threads running through many of them.

Individual Sharing Motivations

On the individual sharing side, the most common (40% of responses) motivation I identified was “personal relevance.” These answers typically said something like “I saw something and it made me think of one of my friends,” or “It seemed right up my friend’s alley.” Humor was cited as a motivation by 16.4% of respondent. Utility was the third-most-common response; typical answers indicated that the sharer thought their friend would find the content useful, beneficial or valuable. Relationship building was mentioned in various forms by 9.5% of respondents; users said they wanted to make sure the person knew they were thinking of them, or they wanted to increase the amount of interpersonal communication in their friendship. 7.8% of people said that beyond relevance to the target, the content they shared was relevant to common interests they shared with their friend. The sixth most common thread I found I call “they might miss it,” these answers indicated that they shared content that they thought the target might not see if they didn’t show it to them. 5.9% of respondents said that they shared content either to start or continue conversations with their friends. Reciprocity (I share with my friends so they share back) was explicitly mentioned by 2.4% of respondents.

One-to-Many Sharing Motivations

Reasons people share in a one-to-many fashion had some overlap with individual sharing stimuli and indeed “audience relevance” was the most common one, occurring in 18.6% of responses. Audience relevance differs from personal relevance in that the sharers shared content they thought would be relevant to their perceived audience, rather than an individual. 10.7% of respondents said that they shared content in a broadcast way because of the increased reach this method gives them; they share this way because they can touch more people faster. Increasing their own reputation as a motive was mentioned 8.8% of respondents, the third most common response. 8.6% of one-to-many sharers said they are driven by a desire to further a specific cause or message when they share, often citing political, social, environmental or “favorite technology” (“I want more people to use Linux”) as reasons. Utility and usefulness made an appearance on this side of the data in 7.4% of responses. A relative of the “conversation” motivation; feedback, was cited in 5.5% of answers. These users shared content they wanted to get other people’s thoughts on. Networking and meeting new people was the 7th most common motive, appearing in 5.2% of responses.

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Viral Content Sharing Report: Table of Contents