Why do we share on social media?

Mads Ejsing

Understand why your audience shares on social media and find out how you can use this knowledge to create more sharable content

Have you ever wondered what it is that makes us share on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other types of social media?

A couple of years ago, The New York Times conducted a study which, to this date, is one of the most informative when it comes to what drives us to share on social media. The study found that there are five main factors that play a role when sharing content on social media. 

  • To show valuable and entertaining content our network. 49% of the participants said that sharing enables them to inform others about products they like in order to make them see the value of the product. They also mentioned that sharing could make their network change their opinion about an issue that they find important. Finally, the participants mentioned that they would share in order to make their network perform a specific action.
  • To define ourselves to others. 68% of the participants said that they share in order to provide others with an idea of who they are and what they are passionate about.
  • To nurture our relationship with others. 78% of the participants said that they share information online because it enables them to keep in contact with people that they might otherwise loose contact with.
  • For self realization. 69% said that they share information in order to feel more involved in the world.
  • To spread knowledge about issues you care about. 84% of the participants mentioned that sharing on social media was a good way for them to support cases or problems that they are passionate about.

How can you use this knowledge as marketing manager?

  • Focus on one of these needs in your posts. It is okay if some of the needs overlap, but try to focus on fulfilling one, as it could otherwise become a rather confusing post. 
  • Strive to create entertaining and useful content that users can share on social media to make themselves seem smart, cool, or insightful.
  • Create content that allows your audience, by sharing the post, to show who they are and what they care about.
  • Make content that enables your users to interact with their network through the post.



When it comes to gamification campaigns, some of these factors come into play depending on how the campaign gets shared on social media.

1. The users share the game with their network

When a user chooses to share the game with their network, it will most often be to fulfill the first need; namely to provide valuable and entertaining content to their network. Your user has participated in the game, found it entertaining, and wants their network to share in the fun by participating. It could also be due to there being a great prize that the user wants to give his or her network the opportunity to win. 

2. The users share the result with their network

When your users have participated in your game and gotten a result, the motivation for sharing the result will usually be to define ones self to others. In the example above, the player got the test result of "overachiever" and wanted to share this with his or her network, as it says something about the user as a person.

Curious to learn more? This article by Boston Web Designers has a great roundup of different studies on the psychology of social sharing.