The Psychology Of Online Sharing – The 5 Primary Motivations & The 6 Online Sharing Personas
Content Marketing

The Psychology Of Online Sharing – The 5 Primary Motivations & The 6 Online Sharing Personas

17th March 2014


Understanding the 5 Primary Motivations of Online Sharing

This is the second part of my ‘Psychology of Online Sharing’ blog post series. Today we’ll be looking at what actually really motivates us to share content with each other online. What sort of content do we feel most obliged to share with others and why? In order to answer these questions we also have to gain an understanding of the 6 different online sharing personas as well as what actually triggers us to share!

Let’s get straight to the point by outlining the primary motivations for sharing online. We share with our peers, friends, family and other professionals because we want to:

  • To bring valuable and entertaining content to others
  • To define ourselves to others
  • To grow and nourish our relationships
  • Self fulfilment: to feel more involved with the world
  • To get the word out about causes and brands we are attached to

Looking at these 5 points – on a personal level, all of them apply to myself. When sharing content online one or more of the above boxes are usually ticked. Does the same apply to you? Now that we understand what the 5 primary motivations for online sharing are we need to take a look at the different sharing personas and what actually drives them to share content online as well as their prefered tools. We as digital marketers need to understand what triggers them to share your content online as well as where your audience is most likely to be!

The 6 Different Sharing Personas

Now let’s dive into the personas. I will describe them all. Tweet out which one you recognise yourself in!


This refers to charitable sharing. This means that the individual is driven by a desire to help others – they share content for the benefit of another person. A second example could be an individual devoting time to review a product because they enjoyed it and they want to share their positive experience.

They are motivated by empathy and connectedness. The preferred tools for sharing in this instance are email and Facebook


Quote from an altruist: ‘I sent a couple of articles on nutrition and wellness to a friend with health issues. She emailed me to thank me; she appreciated that I had been thinking about her’. 

What: content that is beneficial to others

Why: helpful, reliable, thoughtful, driven by the desire to help others, connected

Tools: Email, Facebook

[Tweet “I am totally an altruist: motivated by empathy and connectedness”]


This persona can be categorized as a group of well-educated professionals with established networks of personal and professional contacts. They aim to bring relevant content and people together in order to stimulate discussion and to get things done. They aim to build a reputation for themselves by being dedicated professionals with an established online presence. This persona usually opts to share via email, Facebook and LinkedIn.


Quote: ‘I share things related to business interests and exchange ideas on how to improve our company’s offerings to our customers.’

What: content that brings people together & stimulates constructive discussion, business interests in exchange of ideas how to improve their company’s offerings

Why: intelligent web users who see the immense value of social networking, aim to build a reputation for themselves by being highly dedicated professionals

Tools: Email, Facebook, LinkedIn

[Tweet “I’m definitely a careerists: I get things done”]


This is the youngest age group amongst the different types of sharing persona. They are predominantly male and are usually very familiar with the digital sphere. Sharing content online is part of their social routine. They like to be perceived as being trend-setters- in other words, being the first to share something and gain credit for it. Their aim is to start and encourage conversations and discussions as they feel they need to be connected to the world. They are driven by a desire to show the world who they are and to create new friendships. Their preferred tools are Twitter, Facebook and email.


Quote: ‘Sharing is actually part of who I am’.

What: virals, cutting edge technology, entertaining content

Why: young & creative, driven by the desire to show the world who they are & to create friendships, they’re longing to be connected to the world

Tools: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

[Tweet “Sharing is actually part of who I am, I’m a hipster!”]


as the name already suggests it’s all about what’s coming back to them after they have socially engaged with others. They simply want reactions. This persona tends to be actively engaged in online activities and will be provocative simply to generate a debate. Boomerangs need to feel connected therefore they use many different tools such as Twitter, Facebook, email and blogs.


Quote: ‘When I post controversial things, it makes me look engaged and proactive, and I want to be perceived that way. If I don’t get a response then I know I’ve missed my mark’.

What: actively engaged & involved in online activities such as debates and commenting

Why: very actively engaged, self-validation, they want reactions from other

Tools: Twitter, Facebook, Email, Blogs

[Tweet “I’m a boomerang, I want some response, give it to me!”]


Connectors are mainly female and share to stay in touch with their friends. They mostly enjoy entertaining content and find pleasure in sharing that content with their friends. They especially like content which might lead to off-line experiences such as vouchers for free coffee. Connectors mainly use Facebook and email for their content distribution


Quote: ‘I got a deal to the bar at the Gansevoort Hotel emailed to me. I forwarded it to a bunch of friends and we turned it into a girls night out’.

What: online discounts, incentives, promotions, entertaining content, content that might lead to off-line experiences

Why: thoughtful, to stay in touch with friends, creative

Tools: Facebook, Email

[Tweet “I’m sharing with friends, I’m a connector!”]


As the name already suggests this category shares valuable content but only with selected people. In return they also expect to get a reaction for their effort of sharing relevant content. Selectives tend to be older with a more traditional approach to social media therefore email is their preferred method of sharing.


Quote: I only share things with someone specific if I think they will enjoy it. If they aren’t relevant to the material, there is no point in sharing it with them’.

What: informative & resourceful content

Why: thoughtful, they only share content with people they think will enjoy it

Tools: Email

[Tweet “I think about my audience when I share, I’m a selective!”]

In next month blog post we’ll take a look at the fragmentation of social spending amongst the top brands – highlighting the need to engage with your audience and community online.  Additionally, we’ll be looking at ‘The Zero Moment of Truth’ – which is fundamentally about getting closer to the customer. To do this, you need to understand them. What are they looking for? When? What information do they have already? What’s their state of mind? But more to that next month!

Also, do tweet out which one of these personas you recognise yourself in most!

Find the first part of the series here


Written By
Clarissa is a bilingual Strategic Marketing MA graduate with rounded experience in a number of key marketing disciplines including social media, project management, research and business development. Clarissa is Marketing Graduate at Linkdex.
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