I’ve been conducting some experiments on sharing lately, tracking the number of clicks on various links I share on Twitter and Facebook. While my stats are biased by a couple of factors, I anticipate they will tell us a few interesting things about what kind of traction you can get out of sharing items through social media.

Recently, the fine folks at dlvr.it, an automation service that will post any RSS feed’s entry to any or all of a eight services (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Identica, Google Buzz, LinkedIn, Ping.fm or another RSS feed), asked me to try their site. I thought it would make for a good lab since they offer metrics behind your shares.

About two months ago, I set up the RSS feed of my Google Reader Shared Items (which I don’t use often, but decided to play with) to post links to my Twitter account. I also set up the RSS feed for Social Media Explorer to post on Twitter as well. My hypothesis was that sharing items from my feed reader would elicit more response than sharing my own content. After all, the social media purists say you shouldn’t self-promote.

I was wrong.

Jason Falls's dlvr.it stats

In an almost 1:1 comparison (theoretically … more below), links I dropped to Social Media Explorer generated 33 percent more clicks than links to other people’s content. An average of 205 people clicked on my junk. Only 149 clicked on other people’s.

Does that surprise you? It does me.

Now, I wouldn’t go out and only share your own stuff after this. Some bias has to be thrown in to the analysis, including:

  • This was the automated experiment on dlvr.it only. I share other things on Twitter manually. In fact, my guess would be that I share 10 or so links a day to other people’s content and no more than one of my own. This puts me squarely in the accepted oversharing ratios the purists talk about.
  • One could argue that my content is perceived as better by my Twitter followers. I don’t say this arrogantly, just that other people tell me I have a good blog and strong content. If that is the overriding opinion, then links to my content are — perceivably — more reliable than other sources  you may not know or trust.

However, I will say that my other share tracking experiments (which I will share soon) aren’t quite delivering 205 clicks per post, so perhaps there is something to the differences in my expectation vs. reality.

What do you see in the experiment? Does this begin to dispel not sharing your own content as a myth or not? The comments are yours.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.converstations.com MikeSansone

    A combo of thoughts/queries:

    Thought – Because of your engagement and status level (which rocks!!), your stuff (both shared and original) get retweeted a lot.

    Thought – You've been making “deposits” within the community for awhile. You share your resources, but you are also very giving of your own insight. “What you've learned/How you apply” has proven to be more valuable than “Where you learned it” You've become (have been?) a fantastic filter. You turn the coffee beans into coffee (and the coffee tastes better the the bean)

    Query: Can you break this down in parts/charts? Is there growth/change over months in either shared or original?

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Good thoughts, all. I'll factor in the growth/trend in what I'm doing next!

  • http://richardrbecker.com/ Rich Becker

    Jason,

    Great experiment.

    In some cases, it seems to me that people might click slightly less on shared items because it's already part of their stream or in their reader. In other cases, it seems likely that they follow you for you (that's why I follow you). I'm sure there are hundreds of other reasons, ranging from the time of day to how the content is framed up.

    Mostly, I think that while people see your finds as having value, your own assessments add a unique value. It also seems to me that the people who value shared items the most are the creators of what you share. It shows that you are listening, back.

    All my best,
    Rich

  • http://www.briandshelton.com Brian D. Shelton

    Jason, thanks for sharing this. To be honest, I think you hit the nail on the head in your second bullet – the people who are following you are doing so based on trust and a bias for your quality content. With all the “choices” out there for what to click on, I think it stands to reason that they would choose to click on your links more because of the established relationship and expectation of value. Even though you are essentially vetting the other links before you share them (putting your seal of approval on it), all things being equal, they opt for your content over shared content.

  • http://soloprpro.com KellyeCrane

    Very interesting. I agree with the other commenters that your followers are most interested in the content you create – you've established a high level of trust for this blog that's well-earned.

    I recall that last year Valeria (http://www.conversationagent.com) did a Twitter experiment where she removed identifying information about where the post came from (only using the post titles), and found that all of the posts receive more clicks that way. As a reader, I much prefer knowing where I'm being sent, but that might be something interesting for you to look at as a follow-up.

  • http://SweetTea-StraightTalk.com Kathy Drewien

    Mike, I am so stealing this phrase, “You turn the coffee beans into coffee (and the coffee tastes better the the bean).” ;-) It's an apt description of Jason.

    I've been experimenting along the same lines for the last 2-3 months using HootSuite for the rss of my social media subscriptions folder.

    One of the HootSuite settings is defining pre-text for the tweet: Reading / Have you seen this? / @ChrisBrogan says, etc. Tweaking the preceding text has resulted in more re-tweets for me (and resulted in a link from Mike, too).

    Thanks for sharing your results!

  • Brian Wallace

    If you looked at the links side by side to where users couldn't see where the destination was until they clicked, I would argue that a big part of this is that your posts had better titles than those within your feed. Food for thought.

    • http://socialbutterflyguy.com/ DJ Waldow

      Brian – Very interesting take. I have to agree with you on this one too. Makes me think a lot about the comparison between email and social media. People open emails for one of 2 (3) reasons:
      1. From name (know/trust)
      2. Subject line (recognize/interesting)
      3. They open every single email (me)

      So. Yeah. I'm kinda with you.

      Jason?

      DJ Waldow
      Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
      @djwaldow

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    In my own sharing experiments, especially on Twitter, I've found both are better together. My content always does better when I'm sharing other content as well. If I only share mine it doesn't do as well. I think the variety is important for people.

  • Elisabeth_3ShipsMedia

    Both in moderation seem the most logical answer to the self-promotion vs share dilemma.

    If you only sharing what others have produced, the value you add is only as a biased (to your interests) news feed. A lack of opinions, unique thoughts and compiled research means you are simply regurgitating what you've read… To cultivate a strong online presence, you have to show yourself to be a valuable addition to it, not just a limited human search engine of others thoughts.

    By the same token, if you are only sharing your own thoughts, you lose the engagement social media was created for. To be believed as a worthy source of information and a thought leader, you have to interact with the thoughts, news, research and writings of other people in the space.

    Very interesting study, I'd love to see it done on a large scale! Thanks for dispelling the myth!

    Elisabeth
    @threeshipsmedia
    @elis_3ships

  • http://www.tommartin.typepad.com Tom Martin

    Jason,

    Di your auto share just tweet a headline and link? When you shared your stuff did you do the same or did you provide some kind of context outside of just the title of the post? If you did, then maybe that has something to do with the outcome.

    Though I would say, I do believe your hypothesis is correct — folks who follow you on twitter value your content and therefore are more likely to click on it when they see it in their stream.

    Interesting stuff..thanks for sharing.
    @TomMartin

  • jmctigue

    I agree with Brian. Your are an influencer, and it isn't necessarily true that all of the authors in your feeds share that status. Also, their topics might not be as interesting to the people who follow you on twitter. Your results seem totally logical to me. I'm wondering if you lost any followers because your posts may have seemed to be “diluted” by content from elsewhere.

  • http://thoughtlead.com Steve Haase

    I'm reminded of the quote from the late, great Jaco Pastorius, who when asked why he frequently proclaimed himself to be the greatest bass player in the world, replied, “It ain't bragging if it's true.”

    All that to say, if you're stuff is smokin', people will follow you and will click it when you share it. Cool to see the specific stats behind it. Thanks for sharing.

    • markwilliamschaefer

      Actually I think that quote originated with Dizzy Dean, although Jaco certainly earned the right to say it too!

  • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

    Jason, I don't know if this captures the supposed effect of being a “sharing” participant.

    You've already built a solid reputation as a damned-fine thinker in your own right, and a resource for pointing people to other smart stuff elsewhere. The issue of whether what you share is your own branded content or someone else's speaks to the trust and faith we have in you, and your motives.

    A more revealing experiment might take a couple of accounts with a similar number of following/follower counts, and automate them with the divergent behaviors. After 3 months, is there a difference in how often they are re-tweeted? Is one gaining followers at a healthier clip than the other?

    This is a very difficult issue to tackle, because content varies in quality, and there are questions about whether the user is even “in tune” with the audience he/she has built to that point.

    Compelling question, though — and much props for even getting people thinking about it.

  • http://fingercandymedia.com/ Jessica Northey

    Based on my own tracking monitoring and analytics, my “original” content has a lot more legs than when I share links.
    I also work in the Country Music industry and follow a lot of people in my circle. Sometimes I see stuff that is appealing to me but “followers” aren't following.
    I like sharing my thoughts through blogging and microblogging, but I really like reading other peoples stuff especially yours!

  • http://www.TheFranchiseKing.com The Franchise King

    WOM. Word of mouth, Jason. You've worked hard to do things right, and your reputation is a good one. For me, I know that if I click to a post of yours, it will be thought provoking, and I may even learn something that I can use.

    That will be $25 please. Here's my Pay pal log-in: fra……

  • markwilliamschaefer

    I don't see this in the comments but another possible factor: other people are also sharing the “shared” content. If I saw a link from you that I suspect I had already seen I would skip it and so would others I guess. Links from SME are always original however.

  • http://www.specialprayer.webs.com/backlinks.htm Heinrich

    Very interesting post. I tend to share more links from other people than my own links. If you have a strong brand and people like what they read your links will be well supported. Sharing links to current and popular trends will always be well supported. Thanks for the food for thought.

  • http://startups.com/ M_Dilli

    Great post, very interesting indeed. In my opinion, sharing or self promoting will be effective depending on the specific case and the best option cannot be determined for all the cases. As a matter of fact, I think that it also depends on the target market and/or audience and unless the company or organization don't try it first, it is impossible to know which one of the two is the best option.

  • http://twitter.com/Whitevector Whitevector

    Very interesting experiment. I think especially your second possible explanation is correct as your blog has an established reputation and, thus, people are interested to see what you've posted. However, if you'd only share your own stuff, it would suffer from sort of inflation – sharing other's content gives perspective to your own contect, too.

    Essi
    Whitevector

  • http://twitter.com/brandonchicago Brandon Andersen

    Cool experiment Jason. I'd say it's all about sharing quality links, regardless of whether they're yours or someone else's. Like you said, you do have a lot of good content (better than a vast majority of the stuff out there) so I'd hypothesize that your links got more clicks/post because they were simply better blog posts.

  • http://conversionscientist.com Brian Massey

    Don't forget that your twitter audience is curated by you. Your stuff would be expected to have more weight than third party content. It's your crowd by design.

  • http://www.comparereviews.co.uk Compare Reviews

    In my opinion sharing always posting links of your content is a little risky. People are mostly likely to overlook it if it’s excessively shared or posted so I think posting links to someone else content is great way to win reader’s trust. Now, I understood why your blog has got a good reputation; thanks for sharing the statistics of your experiment; I will be doing an experiment too.

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