Are we minding our social manners?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014 | 5pm

If you were in a public place, minding your own business, and someone walked up to you out of nowhere, thrust a pamphlet in your face, no explanations, and insisted “read this”, then disappeared again as quickly as they’d come, what would you do?

Well it might invoke a range of reactions, but I’m willing to bet that the one thing you wouldn’t do is say “Thank you very much, I will,” and quietly settle down dutifully to read it.

So why do so many of us think it’s perfectly acceptable to behave like pamphlet pushers when we’re online? How often do you receive posts in your social feeds that consist of a title, a link and a “Read this” or “interesting article”? Every day? And sometimes there isn’t even a title? Yep, me too.

Here’s where I’m coming from. As the sender, you are relying on me trusting your judgement on whether the article is “good” or “interesting” and assuming that somehow you have worked out that the content you’re sharing is right up my street and worthy of my time. It may well be, but I’ll never know because I have no good reason to click on your link. “Sharing” in this way isn’t helpful. It’s just lazy. And at worst, it’s intrusive.

How much good content is getting lost in social laziness?
It gets worse too.
Studies are emerging that suggest that a substantial number of social media users share content without having fully read or understood it themselves. Online publisher Upworthy found that the main spike in content sharing happens when people have read around 25% of an article. Web traffic analysis firm Chartbeat have been quoted as saying that in their studies they have found “no correlation between social shares and people actually reading.”

What’s more, in many cases, people are forwarding links to pieces that they haven’t looked at, or even clicked through to, at all. In one study, Hubspot analysed  2.7million tweets containing links and found, incredibly, that 16% of them (that’s about 432,000, to save you doing the maths) generated more retweets than clicks.

Why would you do that? Why would you send something to me that you couldn’t be bothered to read yourself?

Those of a generous disposition might say that everyone is time-poor, so even if the sender hasn’t had time to read the whole article, they’ve judged it good enough to share with like-minded and equally time-poor individuals (hey, they may even save you time by leaving out any irksome descriptions of what the content they are recommending to you contains…). Or some might argue that the way we consume social media – i.e. increasingly on mobile devices , means that we’re less likely to read vast swathes of copy, and heck, reading 25% is enough to determine whether it’s a good piece or not, right?

Or maybe it’s to do with the psychology of sharing. When we share, are we really saying “Look how informed and up-to-the-minute I am”, rather than “Here’s something that could really help you?

Which brings me back to my point that huge amounts of good content out there are being lost because of social laziness.

No one is going to read your content if they’ve no idea what it’s about, let alone whether it’s relevant to their interests or issues. If you’ve come across something good that you really want to share because you think others might like it, learn from it, or generally find it useful, then why not tell people what’s good about it when you post the link? Surely it follows that your content is more likely to be clicked on, read and further shared. A compelling few words could make all the difference.

For example: “Are we minding our social manners? Great MOI blog by Nick Walters reveals social shares don’t necessarily mean social engagement. How to get clicks as well as retweets.”

Just a suggestion…

But don’t print it out and thrust it under some stranger’s nose down the pub, will you?

Seriously, lazy social is not good social.

 

 

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