10 Reasons We Share Content on the Web

The Internet is the great enabler for sharing content. And, this new incantation of the web offers an extremely diverse array of tools to share anything we want with friends, family, co-workers or even complete strangers.

Some people use social networks like Digg and Reddit to share content, others use blogs, and some simply use email to share links, videos, articles and anything else they stumble upon.

Bloggers, reporters, marketers, artists and pretty much everyone with good ideas wants to share them with people, and then ideally those people will share the idea with their connections. This will hopefully continue and eventually reach a tipping point, where your content has gone viral and picks up steam to reach millions.

For this post, I’m not going to go into specifically how to make viral content. Instead I’d like to focus on why we share content in the first place and what motivates us to do so.

There are 10 basic reasons we share content:

1) It is absolutely hilarious
Let’s be honest here, the majority of people surfing the web love humor. And, the influencers of the web especially love clever humor. I am probably forwarded more ‘funny’ links than anything else by friends and family and my casual connections.

2) It is incredible or unbelievable
Sometimes content that must be shared is just so incredibly mind-blowing we can’t help but submit it to a social network or email it to a friend. It becomes must share content when it completely changes our worldview on something, or gives us insight into something we had no idea existed.

3) It is deeply emotional
Even though the Internet is not as personal as face to face communication, plenty of content on the web evokes deep emotions from us – either positively or negatively. Either way, it is basic human nature to want to share in deep emotional experiences, and is a strong reason why people share content.

4) It agrees with our worldview
We all have sets of friends who share similar interests. When something is strongly geared to agree with a certain worldview, people love to forward it to continue to spread that view with their contacts and the social web.

5) It makes us stop and think
Some content is so deeply thought provoking, it causes us to pause what we’re doing for a minute and really think about life and what it all means. If it is successful at this, we definitely will want to share that experience.

6) It isn’t covered by mainstream media
Stories and ideas not generally covered by the mainstream media have a way of going viral and being shared amongst all users of the web, not just the Digg crowd. You’d be surprised how many people email links to their friends of incredible stories on blogs or facts about politics that big media ignores. There is definitely a feeling that the web’s users, for the most part, are seeking out what is new, novel and offbeat. The types of stories you haven’t heard of are more likely to spread virally than the normal stuff.

7) It will make someone smile
A huge reason people love to share content is because they know it will make the person they’re sharing it with smile. It’s as simple as that.

8) It is dramatic
Our culture loves a good drama, and something with high levels of drama is certainly going to be shared by people. People on the web love drama, especially if it isn’t happening to them and they can just sit on the sidelines and comment.

9) Mass-scale embarrassment
Similar to the dramatic, for some reason people love to share content that is embarrassing to someone on a mass scale. Miss Teen South Carolina is the perfect example.

10) It is provocative (but SFW)
People love sharing videos that are a little risqué, but are still kosher to watch at work or with other people in the room. People generally are not quick to share content that is inappropriate to be opened up because many view web content at work.

Next time you forward something to a friend or post it to a social network, think of the underlying motivation for why you want to share it. Does your content evoke the same reaction for your readers?

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