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You Will Probably Share This Without Reading It

Last year Dan Zaralla did some research into social sharing, and something fascinating emerged.  He discovered that 16% of us regularly retweet content without having read what we’re sharing.

Some further analysis by Chartbeat has supported these findings.  They found that many of us are sharing content online that we either haven’t read fully, or in many cases haven’t even read at all!

They looked across the sites they monitor to try and determine how many tweets an article had compared to how many people made it all the way to the end of the article.  You can see from the chart below that there was very little comparison between how much of the article was read and the number of tweets made about the article.

All of which probably isn’t that surprising.  We know for instance that the longer people have to focus on something online, the less likely they are to complete that task before being distracted away to do something else. This trend has only deepened with social media.
If nothing else, it emphasises the importance of having an excellent headline that tempts people to share your content.  That was certainly one of the findings from a study by MIT last year.  They provided 10 tips for securing more retweets based upon their research, with an attention grabbing headline securing 40% more retweets than normal.  If it’s relevant to your followers, they showed that this was likely to give your chances a 41% boost.
Of course, we should say that the Chartbeat research showed that the vast majority of readers make it to the end of an article, so maybe all those retweets aren’t so effective after all, but then research from Penn State showed that high traffic numbers made bloggers feel more motivated about their task, so maybe it doesn’t really matter after all if people make it to the end.

Join The Conversation

  • Jun 19 Posted 4 years ago two2_tango

    You will probably be out of work soon because you spread misleading information and give terrible analysis.

    Catchy headline. But if you're going to say that 1 out of 7 people doing something means anyone will 
    "probably" do that, you're providing horrible insights.

    The REAL insight of what people will "probably" do is that 84% of people WILL do their due diligence and recommend an article that they actually read.

    Having read your article, I will DEFINITELY not share it precisely because I have read it.

  • Jun 13 Posted 4 years ago jdrip

    I'm thinking this isn't the most accurate way to measure amount of content read... After reading this entire article, for instance, my scroll bar was only about a third of the way down. When you factor in comments, ads, and screen size scroll depth is pretty arbitrary. I wouldn't be surprised if the hypothesis is still true, but I don't think this proves it...

  • RogerHarris1's picture
    Jun 13 Posted 4 years ago RogerHarris1 It's not a good idea to share stuff without reading it. If you want to provide quality to your audience, you want to know what you are sharing. Moreover, if you get a response, you want to be able to respond quickly and authoritatively.
  • Jun 13 Posted 4 years ago Walt Cudlip

    Clearly a cheeky/catchy headline entices you to read. Old school journos and editors would know this from newspapers. I think the same rules apply about your social media content. Get the meat and potatoes in the first couple paragraphs or you've lost your reader. If it gets passed on, you have a better shot at the re-tweeter (is that a word?) having at least a cursory knowledge of the message they are sharing. 

  • OIRMS1's picture
    Jun 12 Posted 4 years ago OIRMS1

    I'm actully surprised by the number, 16%. I thought it would be between 20%-25%.

    I suppose at the end of the day a retweet is a retweet but I can't help but wonder how much of an effect a lower percentage than 16% could have on a campaigns numbers--if any.

  • Cara Tarbaj's picture
    Jun 12 Posted 4 years ago Cara Tarbaj

    Interesting article! I've often wondered what the stats were on sharing without reading. 

    This research really points out the power of the headline. 8/10 people will read your headline, but only 2/10 will read the rest. 

    This research scales deeper into what actions we take based on the headline. So perhaps we need to put more emphasis and time into creating more powerful headlines (if that's all some people are going to read before sharing).

    For starters, here are 5 Awesome Tips: How to Write Killer Blog Headlines. Krista weighs into 5 elements that grab the reader's attention and really pull them into reading the article.

    Does anyone else know any great articles on crafting effective headlines?

  • Alex Baker's picture
    Jun 12 Posted 4 years ago Alex Baker

    Great headline Adi!

  • DaveBrock's picture
    Jun 12 Posted 4 years ago DaveBrock

    This is a really interesting topic.  In responding to Robin"s question about whether it's wrong, the answer is it depends.

    The issue is really "what do you want to stand for to your followers?  For example, I want to "stand for" pointing my followers to quality, provocative, and thoughtful content or points of view.  This means, I have to read every piece of content I tweet or RT. 

    I would never think of tweeting something I haven't read or that doesn't fit my assessment as quality content.  Likewise, I would never use any of the automated tools like Triberr, etc. because I would be betraying the implicit commitment I've made to my followers.

    Does it pay off?  It seems to for me--at least I get feedback from followers who "get" and appreciate what I'm doing.  Does it take time, Yes--but if I want to provide quality impactful content to my followers, aren't I obligated to take the time.

    Where motives seem very transparent, those who position themselves as "quality content curators," who autotweet a chicken soup recipe, or some other nonsense.  They've betrayed the "relationship," and betrayed motives around escalating the volume of noise, etc.

    But using those tools, not reading the content, etc. will work for people who have a completely different engagement strategy.  And that will attract followers who appreciate that.

  • Adi Gaskell's picture
    Jun 12 Posted 4 years ago Adi Gaskell

    Depends I should think.  If you're using the # of shares as a measure of the success of your work then it's perhaps not the best measure.

  • Robin Carey's picture
    Jun 12 Posted 4 years ago Robin Carey

    And is that wrong? 

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