LEWIS 360° – The blog of global communications agency, LEWIS PR

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Sharing Isn’t Always Caring

VanityNot so long ago I conducted a little experiment. I wanted to figure out whether people would actually read what they retweet or just respond automatically to the request – so I pulled a little trick.

I published a blog post with the title 5 Reasons Your Blog Doesn’t Get Retweeted. But the article had nothing to do with why your blog gets retweeted. The actual topic was me wondering how often people would share articles on Twitter they had not actually read – but would merely share to show that they own the topic.

I’m happy to say that my experiment failed. I asked readers who made it to the bottom of the post to use a different message on Twitter:

Experiment: do people share more than they read? bit.ly/11ZiAtX

The article was shared over 70 times, and only a handful of them used the ‘wrong’ headline – most of them were automatic RSS feeds linked to our blog. The experiment, however, had a serious flaw. I ruled out the possibility that people would retweet the correct headline without reading it.

How ironic would that be? Would people actually share the headline ‘Experiment: do people share more than they read?’ without reading the actual article?

‘Effectively no correlation between sharing and reading’

The answer to the question came last week, when I had almost forgotten about the little experiment. According to Tony Haile, CEO of Chartbeat (which measures real-time traffic for sites like Upworthy), there is ‘effectively no correlation between social shares and people actually reading’.

There!

This proves that (a) my experiment was indeed flawed or (b) our readers are more eager to actually read and learn than Upworthy’s audience. Or maybe, the answer lies somewhere inbetween.

As a former journalist, I believe that every blogger has a journalistic mission. As Jeff Jarvis argued: you don’t have to actually be a journalist to perform the service of journalism. Journalists don’t always write stuff that readers want to read – they write what they think readers should know. This is one of the most important principles that I still carry with me, even years after having worked at a newspaper desk.

Does it mean you have to be blind to page views and social shares? No, of course not. Don’t be silly. But avoid getting carried away by vanity metrics. If you care about your readers, reward them every once in a while with an article that you honestly believe is an important story to tell, although it may not attract as attention.

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  • Rodger

    I will admit it. I use RSS feeds to automatically tweet good content so that my presence is felt around the clock, But I also supplement that automatic tweeting with sharing where I have read the content. In those instances, my goal is two fold. First, I want to make a connection with the author, and the second is to share. The primary function, however, is to establish a relationship.