Why People Share

Date: 15-July-2015

Media Post: http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/254027/why-people-share.html

At the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s Summit in 2010, Steve Knox, then CEO of P&G’s in-house word of mouth marketing agency, Tremor, gave a compelling talk entitled “Why People Talk.”  Knox found that consumers talk when we give them an element of surprise that does not fit inside their existing expectations about the brand.

What motivates us to share is closely related to what motivates us to talk. However, there are some key differences, nuances and amplifications that should be made.

UM’s Wave, an annual global tracker of social media trends, specifically probes why people share content via social media.  Essentially, sharing content on social media has rapidly become a short-hand form of communication.  Whatever we share with others directly reflects on us, the sharer.  What we share – from online articles to video clips – is the basis of our social currency.  If you agree with the insight “it is easier to appreciate art than it is to create it,” then it naturally follows that it is easier to share content than it is to create it.

Wave shows that when Americans share content, we are happy when someone comments, or re-shares it with others we know.  Conversely, we are peeved when people ignore it completely or, worse, they unfollow or block us.

As Oscar Wilde put it: “There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”  Clearly, what was true about human nature in 1890 is just as true in 2015, regardless of our advances in communications technology.

In this world of sharing, bloggers have boomed in importance. Wave indicates that consumer trust in bloggers (including video bloggers) has risen from 26 percent two years ago to 37 percent today.  As a result, YouTube influencers have mushroomed in importance.  Only six  years ago, Gary Vaynerchuck led the charge as a YouTube influencer with his energetic Wine Library TV which wittily reviewed wines in a very down to earth way, inspiring his thought leadership book, Crush It.

Today, YouTube influencers such as Michelle Phan and Captain Sparklez are so successful that their scale has made them ‘YouTube millionaires.’  My own personal favorite, who is less well known in the States, is Zoella.  Zoella emanates a disarmingly honest demeanor in her how-to videos, with an  onscreen candor which reflects the vitality Vaynerchuck championed back in the late 2000s.

Wave has allowed us to examine the drivers of sharing related to branded content, where we identified 16 key motivators examining why people shared and how this could spur key communications goals such as awareness, consideration, loyalty, etc.  An insight map was developed highlighting the relationship between the motivators of sharing branded content and building awareness:


The best drivers of sharing are in the top right-hand quadrant which is highest for prompting both sharing and awareness.  As we might expect, entertaining & fun is a lead prime driver, but also very close is what inspires you and being useful and something others don’t know or tells you something new and unexpected.  The elements of something others don’t know and something new and unexpected align with what Steve Knox explored in his talk to word of mouth marketers.

Not that we should take entertaining & fun as a default communications tactic. As Karen Nelson Feld of the Ehrenberg Bass Institute noted in her book on viral videos: “Funny isn’t enough… happiness is OK… but exhilarating is what we want.”

All the findings in this area clearly indicate the higher we can inspire a consumer’s emotions, the greater the chance of boosting their brand-related shares. Increasingly, brands are stepping into this area since it is where the greatest consumer response can be tapped. For example, several women’s brands have advocated what it really means for women to be empowered, not only Unilever’s Dove and P&G’s Always but also Under Armor – attracting mass media attention along the way.

This particular branch of empowering viral videos reflects the “inspiring” element seen in the Wave map.

In truth, while we can identify the ingredients of why people share, the success of any one individual video also depends on luck and timing.  What is emerging is that underlying truth behind social media sharing goes beyond Knox’s element of surprise or Oscar Wilde’s insight about not being talked about.  It also reflects the biblical view on the power of sharing and reciprocation that “It is better to give to than to receive.”

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Discovering Brandon Stanton through Humans of New York

After graduating from University of Georgia, young Brandon Stanton joined Chicago Board of Trade where he traded stocks for 3 years. After things took a bad turn, he lost his job and moved to the city of New York to do what he does best: photography. During the summer of 2000, he decided to start Humans of New York, a social media venture and photoblog, where he could showcase all the random strangers’ portraits he took on the streets of New York.


After just a few months into his new hobby, his little project of photographing 10,000 New Yorkers evolved as he started to have conversations with his subjects and decided to include a phrase or a quote along with the portrait. With his vibrant pictures of quirky characters, and insightful and witty captions, Humans of New York became a real success real fast. He went on to become #1 New York Times best selling author after publishing Humans of New York in 2013 and later published Little Humans in 2014.

But Brandon Stanton is not the type to enrich in the popularity he was gaining all for himself. In 2012, DKNY approached him to use 300 of his photos for a fashion campaign but he declined. When DKNY went ahead and used his pictures anyway, in at least one store in Bangkok, he decided against suing them for money that he rightly deserved. Instead, Brandon publicly asked that they donate $100,000 in his name to a YMCA, so they could send a bunch of underprivileged kids to summer camp.

He appeals to all his fans to donate money for various fund-raising campaigns. From relief funds for Hurricane Sandy victims to helping a couple adopt an orphan from Ethiopia, Humans of New York’s admirers were quick to help (within 12 hours and 90 minutes, respectively, to be accurate). Another initiative he set up to raise $100,000 to send 6th graders of a public school on a trip to Harvard University was met within 45 minutes.

Brandon Stanton is an epitome of proof that social media gives every single user a voice. ChronicleMe is a social media interface that provides its users with a positive platform where they can voice their opinions and not worry about negative lash backs. Clearly, there are plenty of Internet users out there who are willing to provide help to those who need it, as we have learnt from the Humans of New York supporters. And ChronicleMe’s main aim is to provide users with an environment where they can feel safe, comfortable and secure, in order to seek help or find support from other users.

Judgement Free Environment

Judgement Free Enviornment

One http://www.chronicleme.com user recently wrote us:

“ChronicleMe has had significant positive impact on my life. There are things I would like to say or let out sometimes that I just can’t do on facebook, or that I’d generally rather say anonymously to random people than to people I know. It’s nice to just let out thoughts or share personal life situations without being judged.”

Do you have a ChronicleMe experience that you would like to share? If so, please email admin@chronicleme.com!

Authenticity and Vulnerability

ImageEach day, secrets are greeted by the ChronicleMe.com community with positive feedback. These posts come in different sizes, attitudes, and viewpoints. The freedom of anonymity allows for people to post what they really feel without fear of judgment, resulting in utter authenticity and vulnerability.

Selective Exposure on ChronicleMe.com

As a community we provide a safe and positive place to express secrets.

On ChronicleMe.com, you are in complete control of your post. You dictate when you post, to whom you post, and what you post, all anonymously. However, you have the opportunity to selectively expose your identity to other users when they give you feedback. You make the decisions based on your secrets, your circumstances, and your comfort level.

We call this the “freedom of anonymity.”

What will you do with yours?

‘Seek Help’ Feature

On behalf of all of us at ChronicleMe, I would like to thank each user for giving positive feedback on anonymous posts. Because of the site’s anonymity and positivity, we are finding that people are posting about life’s greatest challenges: addiction, abuse, sexuality, alcoholism, domestic violence, suicide, and more. As a community we have greeted these posts with kindness, support, and empathy. It is very humbling and powerful to see that although each user on CMe is anonymous, members of the community are still making a personal and significant difference in other users’ lives.

Since ChronicleMe’s conception, the members have come together to help users by requesting for them to “seek help.” For those who do not know, the ChronicleMe Resource Page is filled with different life-saving organizations that are eager to speak with and/or help any user in need. Examples include the National Sexual Assault Hotline (RAINN.org), GLBT National Help Center (GLNH.org), End to Cyberbullying Organization (Endcyberbullying.org), and the self-injury hotline (selfinjury.com). We are proud and honored to list these organizations as resources.

As we continue to grow, we must remember to take the “seek help” button seriously. If used correctly, it could change someone’s life and connect them with a life-saving resource. One day, that user may return the favor.

Thank you again.

Anonymously yours,

Anthony Richichi

CEO and Founder