Three Takeaways from The Science of Sharing

Published on October 26, 2011

This morning we hosted an event at Soho House New York to share some new research we have done in conjunction with M Booth on what we call “The Science of Sharing”. We had a panel consisting of Frank Torres from YouTube, Michael Lazerow of Buddy Media, Lauren Drell from Mashable and Brandon Evans from Crowdtap.
See the infographic we created of the study on Mashable.
We conducted a survey of over 3000 consumers in the US and UK and asked them to share their online experience of researching products that they were intending to purchase. The research covered 12 categories of brands that could be grouped into High Involvement (typically higher priced goods including consumer electronics/travel/financial products) and Low Involvement (typically lower priced goods including health and beauty/baby products/music products.)
To put the research into context, it is now over 4 years since Forrester published its Social Technographics research which showed that 13% of population could be defined as Creators (upload their own content, for example a YouTube video), 19% were Critics (consumers who had written reviews of a product or service) and only 19% had used a social networking site.
The picture is very different today. The number of people who could be classified as Creators and Critics has gone up three-to-four fold, while the number of people on Facebook (THE social networking site), we can estimate at over 64%, using Facebook and US Census data combined.
Like it or not – the social consumer has arrived.


Every day, consumers are creating and sharing millions and millions of pieces of content related to brands. One of the most fascinating pieces of the research was the fact that consumers are clearly divided into two different camps.
1. High Sharers: people who actively create and share brand content across a range of different channels
2. Low sharers, people who are more passive consumers of content.
High Sharers, who account for approximately 20% of the population, are more likely to be younger, more likely to be loyal to a brand and three times more likely to recommend products to their friends.
Low sharers on the other hand tend to be older, more concerned with brand quality than image alone, and are more likely to switch brands.


Another facet we looked into as part of this research was the relative influence of owned and earned media channels as well as the influence of search. It turns out that there are some very important differences when we look at the influence of individual channels for High vs. Low Involvement brands.
For High Involvement brands, their own brand web site, as well as review sites and search have a much higher relative influence. However, for Low Involvement brands, Facebook and Twitter are relatively much more influential.
Even at a category level, there are some very important differences. For example, if we look at the consumer electronics category, review sites are the single most influential channels alongside the brand web site, which also has a very high relative influence. However, for these types of products, Facebook has a relatively low influence.


This research is, we believe, the first study to show that people who share content about a brand are more likely (by a factor of three) to recommend that brand to a friend. These fascinating findings are what brands need to incorporate into the way they approach their digital social strategy. Using this research, brands may identify some very specific ways in which they can turbo charge their digital social strategies depending on the product category.
To cut to the chase, if there are three things to take away form the study, we can summarize them as follows:
1. Brands need to use the data they have to understand the relative influence that each of their digital channels have on different stages of the purchase and advocacy lifecycle. Then they should optimize each channel’s respective content.
2. Brands need to identify and nurture High Sharers as these sharers hold the keys to driving brand advocacy. (The result? Sales.)
3. Brands need to make sure that both their communications and marketing teams optimize everything they create in order to drive value in organic search.