Yesterday saw the announcement of a new study by ShareThis, in partnership with Starcom MediaVest Group and Rubinson Partners. Articles on TechCrunch and AllFacebook revieiwng this data seem to focus on Facebook‘s stronghold on the clickthroughs of shared links, at 38% of all links shared by social means. However, while this specific number is impressive for a single networking service, I believe nonprofits can gain more from this study by discovery the gems of data that will be found by reading between the lines.
Here are some quick takeaways to consider:
1) The Ease of Social Sharing is Important
This study reveals that 31% of website referrals are from the “sharing” of your content; including social networks, blogs, and email–and bookmarks.
Takeaway: Ensure your website has sharing functionality integrated for easy social sharing, such as those offered by free services, such as ShareThis or AddThis.
2) Search is Still King
Although social sharing accounts for 31% of website traffic, search engine referrals account for almost twice as much, or over 50% of all website referrals.
3) Facebook Is Not The Only Social Network
While Facebook may be the largest single site for referral traffic from social sharing, email and Twitter each have a decent impact, at 17% and 11%, respectively–and “Other” accounts for a whopping 34% of referrals. “Other” is listed to include “bookmarks, blogs, etc,” but also includes other less-used social networks, such as Google Buzz, MySpace, Digg, StumbleUpon–other social sites used within the ShareThis service, among others.
Takeaway: While Facebook is important for inclusion, it is not the end-all, be-all of social sharing. Don’t count out the smaller sites, blogs, and private networks–together with email and Twitter, they account for 62% of social sharing.
4) Private Versus Public Social Networks
Although mention was given to the idea that first connections (eg; I share with my friends) account for the vast majority of clickthroughs, and those from secondary-plus connections (eg; my friends share with theirs, and so on) decreased dramatically, there did not appear to be clear data regarding non-connected clickthroughs (eg; I share a link via a blog I’m reading, or a retweet via retweet, etc). Interesting to me, though, is that “Other” (which includes blogging, StumbleUpon & Digg) and Twitter–mostly open networks–have higher average clicks than private networking tools Facebook and email, at 5.3 clicks, 4.8 clicks, 4.3 clicks and 1.7 clicks, respectively.
Takeaway: Public social networks, such as Twitter and blogs, have a higher number of clicks per link than private networks, such as Facebook and email.
5) More is More
The study found that shared links are clicked on about 4.9 times, regardless of social network or the number of people who shared the content.
Takeaway: Provide quick, easy and clear calls to action encouraging constituents to share content that is important to them with their networks.
Over 80% of users share content focused on a single topic category (eg; entertainment, business, politics, shopping, etc) and 70% of users will only click on links of a specific category. Also important to note is that Facebook clicks via sharing are more likely to occur when the topic is entertainment or shopping, while business and health topics perform better on Twitter.
Takeaway: Consider your nonprofit’s topic category, where best to share and which constituent audiences best to share your content.
While the data provided so far by this study is incredibly original, and as ShareThis touts, the largest study of it’s kind—the web is an ever-changing landscape. The most effective means of website traffic generation continues to be a multi-channel approach; including search engine optimization, email newsletters, offline communications and social networks.
Above all, the key takeaway this study suggests to me is that constituents continue to be a growing force in both sharing relevant content and driving website traffic.
Update: Clickthrough rate for Twitter was adjusted from 17% to 11% due to an update regarding incorrect content in the original release of information. Additionally, I was provided more information than initially available to me, including the category graphic breakdown.
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