This article is redundant, but let me explain. I shared this article on our social networks just like any of the millions of other pics, videos, articles, and other bits of content posted daily. At that point this article ceased to be the focus, and instead the more important piece of content became the tweet/update itself.
For content creators, this is a big deal. It used to be that you could blog or post something to your website and that would hopefully drive traffic and brand awareness. Publishers are in the same boat: write an article, tweet it, update to your Facebook page, se la. The goal, as always, is to gain people who spend time on the site, which for publishers equates to advertising dollars.
But what happens when people start sharing more than they read? Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile recently noted that more people share viral stories than read them. That means that all of those Upworthy stories that you see on your feeds are not actually being read by the people who share them. That’s a vital insight, because why would anyone really want to share something they haven’t read? The answer is that they have read it: the content is the post itself!
Sharing’s the thing: if an article has more shares than reads, then the breathless headline and caption and associated comments become the content itself. Let me say that again: the tweet or Facebook update has taken the role of the article.
This isn’t lost on the big boys. Twitter’s taken pains to update their interface in order to make room for large format images and videos. Facebook’s done the same in the past few years, and they’ve made it clear that they’re in charge of what people see. In Facebook’s example, they’re almost playing the role of a traditional publisher, pushing stories to the front page and denigrating others depending on interest, virality, social closeness, etc.
Online marketers have taken advantage of this for a while, but there’s a lot of people who have yet to catch up. This article is included in that assessment, although we like to think that informational articles such as these will remain a necessity in the short-term.
So what’s the plan? Small businesses owners don’t need to be writing articles anyway. It’s much simpler and effective to inform their customers about new products or sales via a tweet than to write an article about it. If that’s already the case, then it’s time to double down and include as much rich media as possible. If you’re already doing that, great. If not, get started now. And for everyone else: get ready for new ways to sift through and get the most out of the feeds because in a couple years, they might be the most important publishers we have, and that’s quite a load to bear.