Sharing content is big business on the Internet. Blogs like Gizmodo, news sites like CNN, and even online stores like iTunes, get a hefty percentage of daily traffic through social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
Badges embedded in content allow readers to easily retweet or share with their friends, but until now the numbers have been heavily lopsided toward Twitter for some unexplained reason.
While Facebook is the reigning king of the socialsphere with more than 300 million users worldwide (and approximately 90m in the U.S.), Twitter lags behind with only 80 million users worldwide (including 20m in the U.S.).
Scanning the front page of technology sites TechCrunch and Mashable on any given day, it’s obvious that stories are receiving far more attention from Twitter users.
Mashable stories, for instance, were tweeted 20,092 times but only shared 1,628 times. On TechCrunch, stories were tweeted 5,253 times yet shared on Facebook just 187 times.
So what are the possible causes of such staggering statistics?
1. Twitter users are more vocal than Facebook users. Despite having a much smaller active user base, those who have fully embraced Twitter seem more devoted to passing on links. Perhaps it’s the limitation of Twitter that enhances the network’s sharability. Facebook is crowded with apps and media while Twitter keeps the focus simple: words and links. On Twitter, people usually either have large numbers of followers or they don’t. Facebook makes reciprocal relationships mandatory, meaning that the majority of users have an average-sized friend base. Not too big but not too small. Users don’t become link-sharing crazies to build an audience; they share content that’s more relevant to their lives and they do it less, so they don’t ruffle their true buddies with content that may seem spamish after a while.
2. Twitter beat Facebook to the punch (and the effects have not yet faded). While anyone could share links on Facebook by sending a message or posting on a wall, the true concept of “sharing” was developed by Twitter first. Websites featured retweet buttons long before Facebook buttons, and the social timeline on Twitter was much more convenient for passing content along as it was an all-inclusive machine. If someone broadcast it, users got it. At the time, Facebook’s news feed comprised of simply the “newsiest” items, meaning that the supercomputer chose what was most important for users to see while ignoring other information deemed less valuable. Twitter’s head start in social communication was not left unnoticed by the media, which quickly adopted and promoted sharing before Facebook realized what it was missing. It was this lead that may account for Twitter’s continued dominance in sharing.
3. Retweeting is simply easier than sharing. While, in practicality, both services make passing links as painless as possible with pop-up windows, it’s conceivable that some users view retweeting as a less complicated process. For instance, with Facebook sharing, users must determine to use the default thumbnail image, change it, or not include it at all. With Facebook, the comment box is longing for some text input while Twitter’s comment box is already filled in with suggested material. Facebook users also get the more complex option to send the link as a message instead, which is helpful, but adds to the clutter of the pop-up box.
4. Twitter users are techies. Facebook users represent the average person: a profile, a picture, and some messages. Many Twitter users make up a smaller crowd of early adopters who use a product long before it becomes mainstream, so they’re very familiar with the latest technology. While those users do exist on Facebook, they’re not in the majority since the site has become overrun by soccer moms, grandparents, and over-emotional teens. The same techies using Twitter may be more likely to visit blogs, especially technology-centered ones like Mashable and Tech Crunch, although the Tweet-beat-Share phenomenon is visible across the wider web.
Do you have any theories about why tweeting is beating sharing? Leave a comment.