DANA POINT, California — For many media execs and journalists, access to their Twitter feeds is about as important as breathable air. But most of their readers could care less about their tweets. At least, that’s according to Tony Haile, the chief executive of Chartbeat, the internet analytics firm that measures real-time web traffic for publishers.
“Facebook utterly dominates Twitter by an order of magnitude in terms of social traffic,” Haile told a crowd of journalists Thursday at the Code/Media conference in Dana Point, California. “And most of the people in this room spend more time tweeting things from this conference than sharing on Facebook. We’re on Twitter; the audience is on Facebook.”
But while social sharing — particularly on Facebook — can bring in an enormous audience, not all page views are created equal in terms of engagement, which Haile said Facebook acknowledges through its algorithms. And any nudge provided by an article shared by a friend on social media doesn’t translate to people actually reading, even if they click the link. Haile said that 55 percent of page views get less than 15 seconds of engagement from readers, and social sharing doesn’t move that needle.
“We found zero correlation between social sharing and engagement on the page,” he said.
Also, social sharing isn’t exactly a great gauge for which stories are either important or impactful. Haile said the top socially shared story last year involved an emotional reaction from an old man upon hearing a young girl sing a song.
“Clickbait bollocks,” Haile called it.
And as the audience moves increasingly toward mobile, some worry that more shallow, shareable bits of fluff will become even more common. But Haile said the move to mobile is hardly a death blow for long-form. He pointed out that “What ISIS Really Wants,” a 10,000 word article in last March’s Atlantic, averaged about 3 minutes and 40 seconds of engagement on desktop and three minutes on mobile, Haile said. But he did say that the writing style on mobile has to change. Nobody is going to swipe six times to read a flowery, literary introduction that builds slowly to a point.
“You have to win them every paragraph,” he said.