Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Smart content sharing keeps up appearances

Many online users share scientific-oriented articles but read more trivial stories.  Photo / Getty Images
Many online users share scientific-oriented articles but read more trivial stories. Photo / Getty Images

Online users are making sure they are keeping up appearances by sharing only content that they think makes them look smart.

A new study has found the most shared content on social networking sites are scientific-oriented articles.

The results, however, show the most read items are more trivial topics, including celebrity gossip, entertainment news, men's media and fashion.

The study was carried out by New York-based social sharing and content discovery firm 33Across.

It looked at the behaviour of people on 500 different websites; examining what they shared and what they were reading - indicated by click-back rates.

Of the 24 topics people shared and read about - including science, music, arts, technology, politics and news - the most shared topic was scientific items, at 12 per cent.

But click-back rates showed a dramatic contrast, with topics including entertainment (42 per cent), celebrity gossip (40 per cent) and fashion (33 per cent) among the most-read categories.

The click-back rate for science was about 8 per cent.

The firm said: "The fact that users share this content broadly despite the narrow target appeal suggests that the intent is more related to personal branding ... people like sharing content that identifies themselves with specific topics regardless of whether they are actually interested in the topic."

New Zealand consulting firm SyEngage - which helps Kiwi marketers and businesses make the best use of social media for their business - said they were seeing the same trends here.

Principal consultant Colart Miles said people were more conscious about what they shared online as they had a reputation they were trying to build and keep.

"There's an underlying trend where ordinary people have become famous or almost celebrities online."

Mr Miles said passing on fact-based articles to get across a certain image of themselves or "ego sharing" was very common. However, many people tended to share without fully understanding what they're reading.

"Most people will see a headline to an article - say about a certain movement or cause - and think: 'Oh yes, I agree with that' and then share it," he said.

"But they might come back later and read it through and think: 'Oh, actually, I don't agree with that'. So it's worth being a little more considered and understanding what it is before sharing."

One of the big trends over the years is the sharing of internet memes - concepts that spread from one person to the next via the internet, such as the Harlem Shake.

What we share online*

* Science: 12 per cent.
* Reference: 10 per cent.
* Music: 7 per cent.
* Arts: 5 per cent.
* Technology: 3 per cent.
* News: 2 per cent.
* Men's media: 1 per cent.

* Of all the items read on a particular topic, the percentage of them a person is likely to share with a friend or colleague.

What we're actually reading*

* Entertainment: 42 per cent.
* Celebrity gossip: 40 per cent.
* Politics: 78 per cent.
* News: 86 per cent.
* Fashion: 33 per cent.
* Ratings and reviews: 3 per cent.
* Science: 8 per cent.

* Of all the content shared, the percentage that is likely to be read by the recipient.

- NZ Herald

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