A study by CNN of how we share and consume news has found that social media is the most frequent way that we share stories online. In their study of 2,300 people over two months they found that social media was used to share news in 43% of all instances. Higher than email, which was the second most frequent method of sharing, with 30% of all instances. SMS was third (with 15% of instances) and instant messenger 4th (12%).
These statistics should not, in themselves be surprising. Social media is the easiest of all these ways for people to share news. To share on Facebook they just need to click a ‘Like’ button, and to share on Twitter or other sites there are one-click ways to share content with your friends and followers. Many sites (including our own) include these links and buttons and news sites, in particular are making good use of these. Sharing by email or SMS is more difficult – you need to copy the link, open the relevant program, find who you want to share it with and then send the link.
Social media tools remove many of these steps and, although we don’t have any timeseries data on this, I would hypothesise that the volume of all news stories shared has increased as the amount of sharing via social media has increased. Social media makes news sharing easier and encourages more people to do it.
The role of social media influencers in news sharing
What is perhaps more revealing from this research is the analysis of who shares what. The study found that 27% of ‘Frequent Sharers’ (defined as those sharing at least six stories each week) were responsible for 87% of all news shared online. As we see in most online communities, a small number of users are responsible for the majority of content produced and shared.
These influencers are those who are sharing very high volumes of news and for news organisations there is a real benefit to be gained from understanding more about how they behave and what they share. There is also a benefit for those advertising around the stories that are shared. CNN’s research found that people who received a news story from a friend in social media were more 19% more likely to recommend brands that advertised around this story. They were 27% more likely to favour the brand themselves.
So sharing of news stories in social media is beneficial not just to the news organisations but also to the brands who advertise alongside these stories. There is a real benefit to properly analysing and understanding how people share content online – who is sharing this and what content are they most likely to share. As social media grows and the use of ‘Like’ buttons becomes ubiquitous we should expect even more sharing online and so an ever increasing importance of proper analysis of what users are doing.