More On The Science of Sharing From ShareThis

by Jason Falls |

ShareThis, the sharing widget of choice for many bloggers, including me, released some information last week that confirms the Tell-A-Friend data we discussed last month. Email is still the sharing mechanism of choice for most web users. In fact, ShareThis’s numbers almost match those from Tell-A-Friend across the board, so we can reasonably conclude the numbers aren’t that affected by the type of tool used.

Tell-A-Friend told us their analysis showed that people shared web content in the following breakdown: Email – 59%; Instant Messenger – 25%; Social Networking – 14% (broken down to 79% of that via Facebook or 11% of the total, 15% via MySpace and just 5% via Twitter).

ShareThis offered up some different methodology but shows the following statistics on shares per channel: Email – 46%; Facebook 33%; other social channels – 15% and Twitter 6%.

Image courtesy of ShareThis
Image courtesy of ShareThis

My biggest problem with the numbers was that Twitter seems to almost be the share channel of choice these days. The numbers don’t reflect that. But many who share via Twitter are probably more tech-savvy users who don’t use ShareThis or similar buttons, thus accounting for the gap. I have no statistical evidence to back this up, just an educated guess.

What ShareThis’s information does reveal, however, is a bit more insight into what’s done with the share data from those it is shared with. These numbers are revealing in their own right:

Twitter is by far the most effective share channel, with 40% of recipients clicking on the link shared. Facebook (25%) is second. Email effectiveness is last among their four categories at 15%.

But beyond the first click, what ShareThis called how recipients engage with the content shared, Email makes a comeback. Those who do click on email-shared links view 2.95 pages after the click, on average. Facebook shares resulted in 2.76 page views per unique click. Other social network shares saw 1.59 pages per click while Twitter was again last at 1.56.

All of this analysis is still a bit of anecdotal conclusion, but it appears people on Twitter will gladly click your junk, but care less beyond looking at it. If you email someone a link, or pass it on via Facebook, the audience is more apt to read, click through to something else and so on.

As with any information sampling, I would use this information as an FYI and little more. What really makes the difference in these networks isn’t some stat gleaned from a widget. Networks are made of people, not links, gadgets or servers. Understanding your audience on Twitter and how it differs from the one on Facebook is more important than how many people click on a link shared there.

It’s also probably getting more to the reason of why they click and engage more.

Twitter users, for instance, gravitate more toward the here and now attention span. Don’t want to call them ADD, but it’s close. They’ll click, but unless there’s something pretty freakin’ persuasive on that page, they’re done.

Facebook is different, as we’ve recently chronicled by asking Facebook users what they think about Twitter. People there are much less time constrained in their use and mentality. They’ll take more time to read the content, click through to more information. They want to get to know what you’re sharing, not just making mental notes of what it is.

All this is to say that you have to use research and statistics wisely. I love the fact that Tell-A-Friend and ShareThis are sharing this kind of user data with us. It helps make us more intelligent Internet marketers and social media thinkers. But don’t let the data get in the way of understanding your audiences. With any kind of communications, nothing beats that.

You can read more about ShareThis’s research here. Tell-A-Friend’s information is available on SocialTwist’s 2009 Sharing Report blog post.

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About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls 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 Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).