Where, why and how are people sharing on social media today?

For our latest project, we sought to tap into new insights about how people are sharing. To accomplish this, we asked over 350 teens and young adults in Mexico, the UK, the Netherlands and Singapore to track and analyze their social media behavior. Here’s what we found:

In the past few years, there’s been a shift toward more private sharing. In the earlier days of social media, sharing was more like mass broadcasting. Consumers’ social sharing was broad and unfiltered – and usually carried an underlying intention of gaining social validation (i.e. likes). Today, sharing is less open as consumers take their conversations behind closed doors.

Concerns about security and public perception are contributing to this shift in behavior. Knowing that any shared information is being tracked, stored and used for targeting, consumers have become more guarded about what they’re willing to put out into the world. Additionally, the outrage culture that exists largely on social media gives consumers pause about what they’re willing to share publicly, whether it might be seen as controversial or not.

Also contributing to the shift: an influx of new technology that enables and expedites private, direct contact. Platforms like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Snapchat place greater emphasis on either one-to-one or small group communication over broadly posting to entire networks.  Even more traditional social platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are making it easier to share privately than ever before.

To remain relevant, branded social media strategies will need to adapt. More things are vying for consumers’ limited attention than ever before — so social content needs to do more with less to break through. The most successful brands are those that connect with audiences through content that has relevance to their lives and brings utility and value to others.