Social sharing platform 33Across has released a study that examines how users of some of its biggest customers are sharing digital content across a variety of categories. Science, as it turns out, is the most-shared subject. Yet it’s what happens after content is shared that reveals more data on motivation and interaction and what, exactly, is driving that all-important referral.

The study tracked sharing rates in 24 categories across 450 of the company’s largest content publishers, such as science, entertainment and celebrity, shopping, and news and politics.

"We looked at this through the lens of prior technologies like search, where in an effort to optimize a channel we tried to understand why people were leaving the site and what was brining them back in," says Greg Levitt, general manager of publisher solutions for 33Across. "This was the same thing. We need to understand why people are sharing to maximize our social channels."

The initial theory, says Levitt, was the content category that’s shared the most presumably drive back the most traffic. The results of the study proved otherwise.

Looking again at the science category, for example, shows that its sharing rate is 12 percent (sharing rates were calculated by dividing the number of shares by the number of pageviews for a given site). But the clickback rate is only nine percent.

By contrast, the other 23 content categories tracked recorded a less-than four percent share rate, but the clickback average of those categories was 24 percent. A good illustration of this is the men’s category, which was only shared one percent of the time, but almost half (47 percent) of the stories were clicked on by recipients.

Looking at the numbers, 33Across devised three sharing behaviors:

Ego Sharing: As with the science category, content is more widely shared, but generates a low percentage of clickbacks. The reasoning here suggests that the person sharing the content is doing so as a "personal branding" effort.

Practical Sharing: The parenting and consumer technology categories were more moderately shared and drove slightly higher clickback rates. Here, it is presumed that the sharer is providing something of utility and service to the recipient.

Water Cooler Sharing: Surprisingly, entertainment and celebrity content are only shared 2.1 percent and 1.7 percent of the time. "The impication is that while many people still can’t seem to read enough about the Kardashians, a much smaller percentage choose to proactively share this type of content," says the study. Yet, as the topics start to pick up steam in social media, people start clicking, generating a 40 percent clickback rate.

News and political content generate, by far, the highest clickback rates at 86 and 77 percent. Here, 33Across suggests that the sharing is a combination of ego and practical—people want the attention of riding the crest of a breaking story, but also want to inform their peers of what’s happening in the world.

Levitt notes that publishers need to have a feel for what content is most likely to resonate with an audience, but outbound share data is only one part of the equation. Looking at the referral traffic back from those shares, and mapping that to the content types, is an important next step.



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