So how do we define social engagement? Here is some great data on what is actually happening out there, where all our assumptions about what constitutes valuable metrics are totally wrong, thanks to Chartbeart’s Tony Haile.

Myth 1: We read what we’ve clicked on
Chartbeat looked at user behaviour across 2 billion visits over one month. They found that what people click on, they don’t read! 55% spent less than 15 seconds on the page they clicked on. What is happening is that “traffic”, long considered the metric of success on any website, is actually as fleeting and passive as a billboard on a busy highway. The page is getting views, but there is no one home to read and digest, or get value, out of the information offered.

“The most valuable audience is the one that comes back. Those linkbait writers are having to start from scratch every day trying to find new ways to trick clicks from hicks with the ‘Top Richest Fictional Public Companies’. Those writers living in the Attention Web are creating real stories and building an audience that comes back.” – Tony Haile, Chartbeat – Time Magazine

%social engagement %social listening

Myth 2: Social sharing means engagement
The data shows that a lot of content that is being shared is also not being read. What’s the point? Looks like a lot of content is being shared for the sake of “sharing something”. Chartbeat found that the least shared story had the most engagement time, and the most shared story the least. A bit opposite to common wisdom.

“We looked at 10,000 socially-shared articles and found that there is no relationship whatsoever between the amount a piece of content is shared and the amount of attention an average reader will give that content.” Tony Haile, Chartbeat – Time Magazine

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Myth 3: Native advertising is the future
Data on what people do with native advertising articles, as opposed to real ones, is very revealing. Especially when you look at how much they scroll with a real article..almost 3 times as much. Chartbeat reports that some sites are winning at this game though, because they pay careful attention to what gets published: Gizmodo and Refinery29 optimize for attention as opposed to clicks, shares, and traffic.

Myth 4: No one reads below the fold
Chartbeat has data to show that most readers spend most of their attention time below the fold – that is beyond what is on the screen when you first load a webpage. Not surprising then that banner ads do so poorly. They’re at the top where attention is mostly non-existent.

%social engagement %social listening

Chart Sources: Tony Haile, Chartbeat