If You Share this Post, It’s Likely You Didn’t Read It (studies show)

Get our unfiltered point of view each month

According to a new study from Columbia University and the French National Institute, 59% of links shared on social media have never actually been clicked, as reported in the Washington Post Article “6 in 10 of you will share this link without reading it, a new, depressing study says.”

The article goes on to describe how this blind sharing activity is responsible for what types of news remain top of mind and what types fade away over time. The conclusion is that the creation of “sharebait” and the habit of sharing without clicking is contributing to the decline of intelligent online discourse.

I took a minute to think about this in the context of B2B content marketing. I’ll admit I’ve been guilty of a share or two without reading the full piece (or any of it), so I stopped to think more about the negative result of this behavior:

  • Perpetuation of Gimmicks: “Flavor of the month” terms or gimmicks can propagate like wildfire if they’re shared without being fully understood. Take the term “Account-based marketing” (“ABM”) for example – which has had its definition so diluted that many of the practices considered to be “account-based marketing” today are really just common-sense, product-focused, account-centric marketing. If you’re scratching your head, you’re making my point.
  • Unrealistic Expectation of Assimilation: This is a fancy way of saying – we’re expected to know everything about everything. Not only is that impossible – it’s boring! Don’t you like the opportunity to learn new information? When someone asks me, “Did you hear about the X?” or “What do you think about Y?” If I don’t know what they are talking about, it does not bother me to say “No, what is that?” or “What do you mean?” or “What are you talking about? I haven’t heard about that before.” (However if the other party shared the article or information without reading it – they may start to feel bothered.)
  • Idea Redundancy: I resisted the urge to call this “idea plagiarism” – but that’s really what I mean. Once a point has been made or a thought observed – there is no need to make that point over and over again in different ways to attract clicks and shares. This behavior contributes to the deluge of crap content on the Internet and doesn’t elevate the conversation. Take the time to develop a unique perspective – then watch that perspective get plagiarized by someone else (Just kidding!) (Sort of.)
  • Misleading KPIs: Are your influence metrics centered around likes, shares, or retweets? If your organization’s content or thought leadership is being amplified without being read or understood – is that really a measure of influence

B2B Marketing organizations should stand behind their content library because it tells a story: of the brand, of customers and their challenges, of the climate of a market, and of a solution to a business problem. It’s in the communication of those stories and the true online interaction with customers and prospects that content derives its value – and that value cannot be realized if the content is not read, watched or otherwise assimilated. The value of that content is certainly not in the mindless shares, retweets, or likes that the headline might obtain.

So, for those of you who made it all the way to this point in the post (probably less than a third!) – let’s make an informal agreement on two fronts

  • First, let’s let go of those vanity metrics as a measure of influence for good. Likes, follows, shares and retweets do not accurately represent influence – and the race to measure them only rewards the bad behavior of creating sharebait and “bandwagon” content that deprioritizes originality.
  • Second, (and I can’t believe I have to write this – but I will – for myself included) let’s agree to read content before sharing it. After all, the content we endorse shapes our digital character and credibility, not only as individual people, but as a society of people.