Whitney Houston’s death and funeral this past February was a social media fueled event. Newscasters reported on celebrity reaction through their tweets, the New York Times reported on the Facebook and Twitter explosion on the news noting, for example, that an hour after Whitney’s death 18% of all tweets mentioned Whitney and on the funeral coverage on E!, the continuous, streaming comments of viewers posted were as fascinating as the proceedings.

The Whitney focused conversation highlights what seems to be increasingly true of social media participation. Everywhere and every day, people are compelled to talk not only about the news of the day and what is affecting them with their friends and family, but to make their comments and feelings known to the cyber universe at large. And, people are increasingly not only checking out the news on their TV, newspapers and online sites, but monitoring all their social media outlets and channels to see what others are saying about the current topic. In this hyper fast and hyper rich information age, we want to know both what is happening and how people are reacting.

What drives people to take to the internet to share their thoughts and feedback on everything from a current news story to the latest food trend? A recent study on the topic of “The Psychology of Sharing” was conducted by The New York Times in collaboration with Latitude Research. The study, compiled from a survey of 2500 medium to heavy online sharers, presented some great thought starters on how and why people share with each other online. The research reveals some great nuggets for marketers deciding on their own online strategy and content including the who, why and how information and thoughts are shared. Key takeaways and comments include:

  • 85% of the study respondents said reading other people’s responses helps them better understand and process information and events
  • 68% share to give people a better sense of who they are and what they care about
  • Sharing is all about relationships – it’s part of human nature to want to share and the compulsion to do so touches on self-actualization, esteem, love / belonging, safety and physiological issues
  • There are different types of sharers, based on what motivates them to share. Per the study, each persona is defined by emotional motivations, desired presentation of self, role of sharing in their life and the value of being the first to share.

The most important “aha moment” from this study is that the cause, result and reaction to internet communication all comes down to human nature. Just as humans used to sit and talk around a fire when civilization first started, we now feel compelled to go to the places where other humans are willing to listen and respond to us, that being online social media forums.

For marketers looking to understand and appeal to their intended audience online through social media, one key factor to influence sharing noted in the study seemed like something we should make a poster out of and display for frequent viewing: “appeal to consumer’s motivation to connect with each other, not just with your brand.”

It suggests that if you make your content, and its marketing message, something online consumers will be interested in seeing, reading, trusting and responding to they will reward you by sharing their experience about your brand to their sphere of connections and beyond.

This blog was originally posted on www.movablecontent.com, Contributor, Sylvia O’Hagan: www.sylviohagan.com.