The psychology of social media: Why do we share videos online?

We are all familiar with the term “sharing”. Sharing news, articles, videos, views and information has become a necessary and fundamental part of our online experience. Online video in particular has become the most valuable information source and the most likely to go “viral”.

So why is video online so “sharable”? What is the psychology behind it? And what motivates us to do it?

The most significant dynamics driving our “sharing” culture are quite simply accessibility and technology. More people are connected to the internet than ever. In fact, there has been a 480% global increase in internet users since 2000. Over a third of the global population are now online, with almost 60% of Europe and nearly 80% of North America connected.

Another important factor to mention is that sharing is not new. Sharing stories, news and information has been a part of human life for thousands of years. The internet, Facebook, Twitter, SMS messaging etc. only make it faster and easier than ever to do this.

But why is certain information and why are certain videos more sharable than others?

According to a study conducted by the New York times, there are 6 motivations for sharing:

1. To bring valuable and entertaining content to others
2. To define ourselves to others
3. To grow and nourish our relationships
4. Self-fulfilment
5. To get the word out about causes or brands

It also highlights 7 key factors to influence sharers:

1. Appeal to consumers’ motivation to connect with each other — not just with your brand
2. Trust is the cost of entry for getting shared
3. Keep it simple… and it will get shared
4. Appeal to their sense of humour
5. Embrace a sense of urgency
6. Getting your content shared is just the beginning
7. E-mail is still #1

According to Jonah Berger, the author of a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science; arousal is the key stimulus behind sharing. He suggests that high arousal and action emotions such as anger, fear, or humour drive people to share information. Low arousal and action emotions such as sadness or contentment are much less likely to be shared.

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million”

Video is particularly influential given its’ rich data capacity. The sheer volume of information that is communicated through video evokes a much deeper emotional response. My favourite quote – originally coined by Troy Olson and Jeff Loquist of in a Youtube Blog is “If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million”. In its purest sense a video is 25 pictures transmitted every second; a rich combination of sight, sound, motion and emotion – stimulating our senses and psyche. It is the richest medium and therefore why it is the most influential source in online sharing.

Sharing is about relationships, emotion and motivation. Video has greater influence and dependence on each aspect. Without one, the potential for sharing is significantly decreased. Get it right, and your video will be shared by millions.

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