Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Value of Sharing: Social Engagement | ShareThis

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Sharing is Growing

First, and foremost - and most exciting for us - we found that sharing is growing. On a “per page view” level, we’ve seen a 200 percent increase in the shares per page view across our 125,000+ sites in 2009. This means for every page view consumed, the rate of sharing has doubled, meaning our publishers are getting better at optimizing their sharing and consumers now expect it to be there.

Sharing is Valuable

On an aggregate level, sharing is now accounting for as much as one-third of the amount of traffic driven by search, which is most often the top source of traffic for sites. So say a site gets 100,000 unique visitors per month from search, they’re also getting 33,000 from sharing. Now, 33 percent is at the high range of our network, but we’re seeing sites across several verticals (mainstream news, tech, entertainment) achieving these levels.

Sharing vs. Search on Social Engagement

Even more important than the gross traffic originating from shared links is the social engagement of sharing. When compared to search, sites in our network are seeing up to 50 percent more engagement from sharing. Meaning share-originated links are driving up to 50 percent more page views per unique than search. Search drives a very focused click and is still the standard for intent. We feel influence is a proxy for the new social intent. There is no question why companies like Google are rushing to create a more social search-driven experience.

Now we’ll break down the stages of sharing, which we extrapolate into influence. Influence is calculated as Shares x Recipient Clicks x Engagement x Virality.

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Despite reports of its demise, e-mail is still the most popular method of sharing, and despite its meteoric rise of late, Twitter is still not a very popular sharing channel. In our research, we found that 46 percent of shares came via e-mail, 33 percent from Facebook, 14 percent from other channels such as Digg, del.icio.us, LinkedIn, etc., and just 6 percent from Twitter.

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However, once content is shared, it’s interesting to watch how people respond. Of content shared, 40 percent of clicks come from shared articles on Twitter, 35 percent of clicks come from email and other social channels, and 25 percent of clicks come from Facebook.

We believe Twitter does extremely well on click-through rate because of 2 things: short tweets and URLs, which often mask the source and content of where you are heading (causing accidental clicks), and most importantly, the re-tweet, one of the strongest viral drivers for pass-along effect on any social network.

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Most interesting, however, is what we found out about what happens *after* a user arrives to the share destination - how engaged users are by platform. We found that Twitter is the least engaging share platform with users visiting an average of 1.66 pages when they click through to a site, while users coming in off e-mail were the most engaged, visiting 2.95 pages, and Facebook trailing closely behind 2.76 page views. Of course this varies by vertical and site, but if you think about your own habits, it makes sense. Getting an emailed link from a friend may cause you to pay more attention than the more random discovery that you get on Twitter as you consume quick opinions. We think there is tremendous potential for Twitter to increase its engagement when and if better filters are applied - the type of filters that Facebook has built in from the start.

Everyone who Shares is an Influencer

We believe your friends and family across all social networks should be your filter for the web, and influence isn’t just made by a few, it’s created by everyone who shares. What all this adds up to is a picture of sharing as a growing piece of the social Web, and we look forward to working with our publishers to better understand the value underlying social traffic coming to their sites.

ShareThis is in a unique position to provide this insight, because we’re the only service that has this type of deep data on sharing, and soon, we’ll be able to dig deeper into the concept of influence, exactly who influencers are, and which sites attract influencers and why.

That’s really exciting stuff and we can’t wait to share it with you.

Tim Schigel
@schigel

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