When it comes to the overwhelming amount of content that is produced online, most brands would measure part of their performance on reader engagement.
This of course can be gauged by metrics like visits, bounce rate, time on page, scroll depth, and social shares. But even the most reliable metrics shift and change as quickly as consumer behaviour.
I believe that the boom in mobile usage has highlighted a serious insufficiency in traditional methods of tracking shareability as it turns out sharing isn’t strictly a social affair.
The psychological forces behind sharing
People share content for a myriad of different reasons:
- It’s interesting / insightful.
- It’s from a brand they love.
- It makes them look knowledgeable (social validation).
- It’s funny / entertaining.
- There’s an incentive.
But for businesses, it’s important to understand how people are sharing.
Traditional analytics tracks shares via social methods, but the reality is that a large chunk of sharing is happening not on public forums like Facebook and Twitter, but privately via messaging, emails, or chat apps.
Moreover, this private messaging is facilitated by one of the simplest sharing methods in internet history: copy-and-paste direct from the URL address bar.
It can be easy to get obsessed by the number of social shares a piece of content receives. However, the problem is that people often judge the success of content by social vanity metrics, and not by real impact.
When I’m writing, I see it as a greater success if people are engaging with the content by sharing it around their teams internally over email, Slack etc – as then it’s a strong indicator that it’s resonating with the target audience. This often doesn’t look as impressive publicly, but the content is hitting KPIs/goals that really matter.
Because of the prevalence of address bar shares over share button shares, it’s important to learn how to understand and measure the use of this type of sharing – it can influence content and sales strategy.
As mentioned, this method can prove to be an analytical blind spot for content marketers.
For businesses, this information is a data goldmine as it can directly correlate to buying behaviours. Plenty of data suggests that digital word-of-mouth marketing still offers high value to brands. A personal, private recommendation or referral from a trusted source can tip the scales in an integrated content strategy.
Tracking address bar shares: A case study
I wanted to find out and measure the relevance of this type of sharing, which is so often overlooked. I used the BlueGlass blog as an experiment to understand the impact of address-bar tracking, filtering out our own internal IP addresses.
I connected with the experts at Amigo to test the method of content shareability from about three months of data. In our experiment, we used BlueGlass blog share data (and we also included a case study from PensionBee).
Within our three month test (from 01/12/2016 to 14/03/2017), we found that 87% of our shares were coming from the address bar. We would not have been able to identify those address bar shares without this Amigo tracking tool.
The overall share rate was 3.4% – this was very high compared to our aggregate share rate across all the blog pages we are tracking (1.13%).
Overall, we confirmed conclusively that the address bar was by far the most popular sharing channel:
- 87% of all shares were made this way.
- The next most popular sharing channel was Twitter, with almost all other referral visits coming from Twitter shares.
- Our blog post, ‘25 Things You Need To Know About Local Search – BlueGlass’ continues to be the page with the highest share rate (shares/visitors) at 9.52%.
Optimising your social sharing
The scale of data that contributed to dark sharing was a surprise for me, but for Amigo, these results were normal. Frederic Kalinke, Managing Director of Amigo, comments:
“Across all of our campaigns, we consistently see between 70% and 90% of total shares coming from copying and pasting the URL in the browser address bar. Despite the ubiquity of share buttons, most people distribute content with friends, family and colleagues in a point-to-point manner by pasting links into emails or messenger platforms, rather than broadcasting content across social media.
“If marketers are not tracking address bar shares, it is an analytical blind spot as they have no idea how popular their content pieces are. Amigo tracks everything from the share right through to conversion and can shine a light into ‘dark social‘.
“One of the things we are keen to do next is to fuse our address bar share data with an IP Address identification provider so that brands can understand the virality of their content within an organisation. This is particularly useful for B2B marketers in mapping out where prospects are in the sales funnel.”
Personally, I found that by understanding an untapped level of our social shareability across channels, we were able to uncover more insight into our reader base and find ways to develop and improve our own marketing strategy.
Jasper Martens from PensionBee also used the new sharing data to shape strategy:
“We use Amigo to track address bar shares to understand what content triggers engagement and drives customer sign up. It has helped us to shape our content strategy and identify audiences that are most likely to engage with our content. In terms of share button shares, I was surprised to find out that WhatsApp was the most frequently used channel for sharing blog content. Today, most of our content is aimed at reaching key audiences that will share PensionBee articles on their phones with their friends.”
Now that we can prove that anywhere from 70% – 90% of social sharing is dark, the next step is to track how much of that sharing leads to traffic and sales.
That personalised, private and trusted share is a powerful sales driver when juxtaposed with paid advertising, content, and influencer marketing.
A social button or public share offers a higher level of intent than simply a visit, but being able to analyse a private address-bar share allows brands to identify real content that is sparking interest, and the real influencers that are generating conversions.
Are you tapping into this opportunity to learn more about your audience and potential buyers? Do you track address bar shares?