Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Do You Believe Zuckerberg's Law of Social Sharing?

It’s being equated to Moore’s Law of early Internet days; the now-validated prediction that computing power will double every two years as costs fall by half. I don’t know whether it meets that standard, but here’s what Zuckerberg originally said in 2008:

“I would expect that next year, people will share twice as much information as they share this year, and next year, they will be sharing twice as much as they did the year before,” he said. “That means that people are using Facebook, and the applications and the ecosystem, more and more.”

My attention was drawn to this by a recent infographic on a Bloomberg Business Week site—more about that in a minute. The infographic is too large to reproduce easily, but it has some interesting factoids. Of course, the growth numbers are based on the Z. prediction; it’s not clear whether they used actual Facebook numbers to validate them. Whether the sharing figures are accurate (and who could tell with precision anyway??) the phenomenon is real. I found some other interesting things while looking around.

The consumer behavior behind sharing is important. There is a recent study by Nielsen for AOL that is worth paging through. Among other things, it finds that email is still the most-used sharing tool although social networks, especially Facebook, are gaining fast. Most Internet users share but they share different content on different networks. That’s interesting and important to the marketer who wants to have her content shared.

The difficulty of doing that was brought home to me by this chart. It is the multichannel options for the ShareThis multichannel bar. I use the simple icon on this site and it’s reliable and it produces interesting analytics. They’ve also added a real-time widget that other bloggers or website owners might enjoy. There are a lot of options here: how does the marketer select the best ones? Start with any analytics you can get. You might want to test different options of a multichannel sharing bar, although you don’t want to confuse your visitors. Finally, you might resort to marketing research among key users or the most avid sharers on your site. You have to understand the behavior of your own target audience.

Marketers also struggle every day with issues of keeping up with their discipline, given the torrent of content. I ran into two interesting services. The infographic I referred to was created by Summify, a personal service that creates a daily summary of news from the user’s social networks and sends it by email, to the desktop, or by mobile. The infographic was posted on a BBW beta site called Business Exchange. It describes itself as a social sharing site, with items “filtered by like-minded professionals.” Those professionals can view, comment, and suggest new topics. I don’t see a distribution tool, but if there’s not one, it will probably come.

These services represent two different and interesting approaches to taming the torrent of social sharing. They fall short, however, of actual content curation, adding expert judgement to the equation, as practiced by Huffington Post and others.

It’s a big world, full of content. The job of marketers is to make their content entertaining, relevant, and worthy of social sharing. A big job indeed!

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