Facebook dominates social channel sharing: report

The ShareThis consumer sharing trends report reveals insights into how people share articles, photos, videos and more to social channels across desktop and mobile devices.
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor

ShareThis has released its quarterly report detailing how consumers propagate information after notable events have occurred.

Image: ShareThis

The report looked at events from July to September 2014 and finds that, contrary to expectations, Twitter is not the dominant channel for sharing information over time.

The company analyzed sharing patterns around several of the quarter’s most notable news, broadcast, and cultural events. Events such as Shark Week, Burning Man, and the iPhone launch, for example, were expected to generate high numbers of shares.

Other events — such as the the Napa Valley earthquake, the phenomenon of the viral ice bucket challenge, and news around ISIS — were unexpected. ShareThis discovered a handful of specific characteristics that give certain events their own social "fingerprint".

We tend to propagate information as soon as a notable event occurs, with peak engagement occurring within 24 hours following an event

Highlights of the report show that:

  • On average, shares surrounding major events draw 83 clickbacks, which is five times above average.
  • Within a 24 hour window of the event, such shares draw an average of 186 clickbacks.
  • Mobile activity jumps during events to represent 85 percent of total sharing activity, which is 33 percent more than usual.
  • Events broadcast on TV — such as Shark Week and the NFL season opener — drew more than twice as many shares from tablets,confirming its use as the second screen. Peak hours for tablet sharing were between 8pm and 10pm, providing a credibility to the concept of the "Second Screen".

Apple’s keynote presentation on September 9 was one of the notable events which caused the Internet to buzz. When Tim Cook emerged on stage there was a 400 percent increase in Internet activity with almost 40,000 content shares.

Initially, Twitter dominated online engagement during the presentation — outpacing Facebook by about 70 percent. 

At the end of the event, most of the activity on Twitter had died down and Facebook became the dominant channel for content shares.  

Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit have proven themselves to be major forums for discussion around events. Each channel has unique characteristics, which lends itself to different topics of conversation.

Twitter — with its real-time feed — spikes by 200 percent around sports and entertainment events. News and politics tend to appear on Reddit, where in-depth discussion and analysis are encouraged.

Facebook appears to be the dominant platform to discuss major updates in the weeks surrounding a major event. The platform commands around 85 percent of activity within a two to three week period, which is 31 percent more than usual.

Twitter and Reddit tend to be more reactive channels. Within two to three days of an event, Twitter activity jumps by 300 percent.

Entertainment and culture events are far more active on mobile, while news and politics are more often discussed on desktops. Mobile activity jumps during events to represent 72 percent of total sharing, which is 33 percent more than average.

Facebook dominates social channel sharing according to new report ZDNet
Image: ShareThis

Younger audiences tend to be the first to react. Sharing increases with age group, especially within days of an event. In the first 24 hours after an event, users aged between 18 and 25 were twice more likely to share content.

A week or two later, the conversation was picked up by older audiences, with users 55 and over being 50 percent more likely to share.

International crises such as the on-going threat of ISIS in the Middle East resulted in more shares from older, male audiences. Sharing of information during the Ferguson unrest was done by generally younger females. Burning Man seemed to generate social buzz from older, higher income audiences.

Events cause local uplift in traffic. The Napa earthquake caused a 500 percent surge in sharing activity in California. Sharing rippled out to 200- to 300 percent in neighbouring states. Similar effects took place in Missouri after the Ferguson riots, as well as in Washington and Wisconsin when their home teams kicked off the NFL season.

Businesses that want to take advantage of social sharing behaviour could try to:

Utilise reactive channels. The change in behaviour across channels is only amplified when it comes to event sharing. Look to Twitter during sports and TV events, and Reddit when reaching out to users with interests in politics and current events.

Take advantage of second screen usage. Social users depend on their devices to stay updated on events throughout the day. Tailor your messaging in mobile form, focusing on tablets to make sure that you reach users at peak engagement as they tune in.

Broaden focus. As events cause ripples in social activity which span many different topics,o make sure you broaden your content focus to capture more general discussion around the event topic.

And most importantly — do not oversell your product with pointless updates. It will turn your customers away.

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