What Motivates Us to Share Videos? The Psychology Behind Social Video

What Motivates Us to Share Videos? The Psychology Behind Social Video

Share on

What is the psychological power behind what we call “social video?” How has it changed human behavior? What types of video motivates people most to share with our own social circles? Chris Schreiber, Director of Marketing for the social video advertising company, Sharethrough, shares with us his special insight on these and other important questions, and explains the benefits for marketers to get a deeper understanding of the fundamental psychological principles behind social video.

What Are the Psychological Factors That Motivates Us To Share (Videos?)

First let’s qualify what I mean by “psychology”; I am referring to how we scientifically attempt to understand both individuals and group behavior in human beings; and how our understanding of that behavior can lead us to better understand both our own professional activities and their benefit on society.

One of the things that has intrigued psychologists following digital media online lately is what motivates us, what sets off the triggers in us, to share both content (be it of our own original creation or of others), and conversations – be they within our specific social circles or broader communities at large? Of course, I am particularly intrigued by applying this question and field of study (what little of it exists right now) to my own area of passion, which I would also argue to be the richest medium of digital content online: video.

So, I now have for you an outline of what I’ve gathered from my past interviews and research on psychological experts on the types of factors that cause people to share online, and especially with sharing video (Note: These factors can also be applied in any combination):


  • Ability of individual to complete the task (share)
  • Simplicity of the task

Rational stimuli

  • Self-interest
    • Financial benefit/reward
    • Status
    • Power
  • Education
  • Other achievement

Emotional Stimuli

  • High arousal/motivation
  • Altruism
  • Identity (self-identification)
  • Empathy
  • Connectedness
  • Passion (evangelism)

For some recent news and info about the psychological triggers behind social media and video sharing, I recommend check out the following links:

Chris, what is it about online video that triggers something in so many people to want to share it with others? How do videos “go viral?” What spawns “virility?”

One part is education about the technology, and kind of the way optimization works; but then another part really is psychology. Like, what are sort of the key factors that cause people to share? A lot of the second part to that thinking was really born out The Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab with Dr. BJ Fogg, who teaches at the lab the different theories of behavior change, and how to change behavior by leveraging the power of technology (including video).

Author’s note: For more information about what causes behavior change in humans (people), I recommend checking out BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model, and my earlier video interview with Dr. Fogg.

I’ve heard a few marketing individuals that say that language around a video plays a huge role with what motivates audiences to share in en mass.

Yes, there’s certainly a lot of interesting work being done around what we call “semantic natural language processing,” which involves understanding the different tools to read what is sort of the tone behind the comments (in a video, around a video, and circulating from a video).  That’s a pretty new field, but I have no doubt that that will continue to get more sophisticated.

How much has online video improved our understanding of human psychology – i.e. – how people behave online with video?

It’s improved it a number of ways.  To some extent online video is actually changing the way we behave; and maybe, changing our psychological profiles.  There is this new element to our lives which is social media, and just the way that we become sort of the curators for our personal networks; and the power that it brings both just in terms of the broadness of people we can reach with a single Facebook post, and also what that means for brands.  So it’s kind of been overstated, but it is true that the consumer is more empowered now I think with social media.

What is it about online video that gives consumers feelings of empowerment more than with other social media?

I think with online video, and probably more so than other medium, the way digital works, there’s so much more data at your fingertips. With online video’s richer data it carries, we have a much more deeper capacity to understand what drives sharing. What that richer data does is actually motivate people to want to pass on this content. It’s like a clearer window into the way our brains are wired, and how it actually moves us to share with our networks. So to reiterate, I believe it’s that it’s the massive amounts of data compiled into an online video that makes for the biggest difference (over other social media or any other media).

Before online video was in such widespread use, even before Internet was in widespread use, there’s always been interesting content out there, but there was a limited amount of ability to see how people reacted to it.  You could see box office sales for a movie, but at the end of the day, the majority of conversations happened in a place that was impossible to capture so coming from a data standpoint. Digital video online has changed that. But there’s an interesting line that one of the representatives from Coke said at a conference we recently presented at that I remember: “Data is the new soil.”

Sounds like you could suggest from that statement that online video has the “richest soil.”

I definitely do stand behind that video is the richest medium to reach people and change behavior – just because of it’s combination of sight, sound, motion, and emotion – reaching our senses and our psyche.

Coming up next time…

I showcase some of the success stories that Sharethrough has achieved with enabling their understanding of human psychology into social video marketing campaigns for clients.

About Chris Schreiber…

Chris Schreiber leads marketing strategy at Sharethrough. Prior to Sharethrough, Chris worked in the Global Communications and Public Affairs Department for Google, helping design and execute communications strategy for key consumer applications and social media initiatives. Earlier in his career Chris worked in content strategy roles for major entertainment brands, including Late Night with Conan O’Brien and CBS Sportsline.


Video Industry

Share on

Read More Insights

How a DIY YouTube Tutorial Video Saved Me $700

How a DIY YouTube Tutorial Video Saved Me $700

YouTube isn't just for watching cats, or Korean pop music. Hundreds of thousands of videos offer invaluable advice to consumers when it comes to DIY projects. We show you how a quick search on YouTube saved over $700 on the cost of a new washing machine.

Read More Arrow pointing right
© 2019 Tubular Insights & Tubular Labs, Inc.