The Social Content Economy Isn’t Here Yet

It’s become gospel that we’re moving from a search to a people-powered era where content is discovered increasingly through peer recommendation.

Maybe not. A new study by nRelate and Harris Interactive found that 76 percent of respondents said they do not get most of their content recommendations from friends on social networks. Indeed, people are three times more likely to click on related links at the bottom of an article than content on social networks. The very large caveat here being that nRelate happens to sell related content links on publisher pages.

However, the survey of 2,500 users also found that 60 percent of people will click on a link from someone they know offline. With the spread of social media to all aspects of our lives, we’ve developed a taxonomy of people we trust — from family and offline friends to online/social media acquaintances we’ve yet to meet.

According to HubSpot’s Dan Zarella, only 16 percent of 2.7 million tweets analyzed generated more clicks than retweets. The implication, therefore, is that many Twitter users will retweet something without even looking at it. In other words, just because people are sharing on social networks, it doesn’t mean people are actually clicking.

With so much content created these days, people have many ways of discovering content. The nRelate/Harris study found that almost everyone — to the tune of 92 percent — reads content online and that we spend more than seven hours per week hunting for content. This, according to the  study, signifies that people are moving towards “an exploratory, contextual information discovery process.”

The study revealed that three out of every four people click on related links at the bottom of articles for more information. Search is still king, and the preferred way of finding content, according to the study, is in the related links. When it comes to actions after reading an article on a site, 48 percent said they are likely to click on related content — which is exactly what companies like Taboola and Outbrain are hoping for. Interestingly, more than half of people surveyed said they read and click on content coming from that archaic version of content discovery: email newsletters.

Another social tech vendor, Tynt, surveyed 17,000 publishers about how content is shared and found that 82 percent of copy and paste content to be shared instead of using share buttons.

The implications here are that for all the crowing about the importance of social media as a discovery and recommendation engine, there’s still a ways to go. Do we trust the content our friends post on Facebook and Twitter? Sure. But if the content is not relevant or interesting to a reader at the time a friend shares that piece of information, then it won’t get clicked.

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