Taking Social Sharing to a New Level: A New Study
Content providers are very focused on providing tools for their readers to share their content, hence the plethora of buttons we see on the articles we read, all of which make it easy for us to push content forward to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email and other sites. According to some recent research, we may not be using those buttons as much as had been thought.
Social sharing and content discovery platform 33Across today announced the results of a new study based on research by Tynt, its publisher solutions arm. The study claims to be the first of its kind looking not just at what people share and how they share it, but at an aspect of the process that may prove to be equally or even more important: “clickback.”
Let’s say I read a really interesting article on Smithsonian.com about quarks. I think: “Oh, my friend Lucy is going to think this is really interesting; I’ll share it with her.” What do I do next? Well, according to Greg Levitt, the General Manager of Publisher Solutions at 33Across (and co-founder, with CEO Eric Wheeler), what I do not do next is click on a share button. What it’s more likely that I do, according to their research, is cut and paste the article into an email and send it to Lucy. Explains Levitt: “Sharing is largely still based through copy and paste behavior.”
If you’ve ever had the experience when you cut and paste text from a website into a word document of seeing the URL mysteriously pop up under the text, even though you didn’t copy the URL, then you’ve seen the 33Across attribution link in action. In a world where sources and authors’ names are often, um, forgotten, 33Across makes sure credit is given where credit is due. As Levitt puts it, what they do for publishers is “ensure their brand is travelling with their content.”
So back to Lucy, who’s just received an email from me with the quarks article. Does she race right down to that URL and click on it so she can read the whole article? Not bloody likely, according to Tynt’s research.
In a study of the various topics people share, a surprising result of this new study is that science tops the list as a shareable subject, and is shared at a rate 12% higher than other subjects. Where science falls down is in clickbacks, i.e. links that the recipients of the shared material actually click on and follow. Based on analysis of the data (and not, stresses Levitt, on interviews or focus groups) the folks at 33Across surmise people share science because it makes them look smart. They call it a kind of “personal branding,” and have dubbed it “ego sharing.”
Another sort of sharing is water cooler sharing. This is in the area of celebrity gossip and entertainment news. People do less sharing of this topic (one presumes because it is the opposite of science, and makes them appear shallow and superficial). With a sharing rate of 1.7% for the celeb stuff and 2.1% for entertainment, the clickback rate is a very high 40%.
In between the ego and the water cooler, the study finds yet another type of sharing which they call practical sharing, and which includes parenting and consumer technology information, i.e. useful stuff.
Why does clickback rate matter? Levitt says, “We worry about copying without proper attribution. It’s more important those links wind up driving traffic.” This is because “without the links the publisher doesn’t have the ability to gain new readers.”
What can publishers take away from this study? “If you operate in multiple categories this is really interesting, because it suggests which content to focus on from a social perspective,” says Levitt. “If you’re in one vertical… [you] need to figure out how to maximize social channels. For many there’s a constant struggle to decide what to post in social media. In the past publishers may have looked for content that’s trending on their site based on sharing. They need to consider the full picture, not just what are people sharing— it’s what they click on once it’s shared.”
Once again, we are forced to conclude that one of those basic lessons we imbibed in preschool was not quite the way things work. Share and share alike? Not so much!
See here for more information about the study.