The recently released 11th Annual State of the News Media report from the Pew Research Center’s Journalism project, offers a number of quick takeaways about how we get our news, and more specifically, the role that social media plays in that process.

In the first takeaway, the report notes that “news has a place in social media – but on some sites more than others.” In fact, half of all Facebook and Twitter users say they get news from those sites.

But the more interesting finding for me, though not surprising, is that:

“getting news on Facebook is an incidental experience.”

In other words, most of us don’t go to Facebook in order to get news. We go for other reasons. But along the way, we happen to see news stories, whether they are in our newsfeed as shared by someone else, or perhaps in the “trending” column on the right.

Why I find this interesting is that there is a real lesson here for those of us who are marketers, or who are using Facebook and other social media for our businesses. While it’s not in the study, I don”t think it’s too far of a stretch to say that most marketing messages we see, and perhaps engage with, are of that same incidental nature. We aren’t there to seek out marketing messages. We aren’t there to seek out businesses and engage with them.

And yet, we stumble on them. We do see marketing messages, and from time to time we engage with them. We click, we share, we comment. We might even be induced to purchase something.

This is a wake up call for marketers and businesses on how we approach social media. It’s a reaffirmation of the word of mouth nature of social media. It’s how real life works. We do some things with intention, but with social media, being a consumer is generally low on our priority list. But that’s when we can often best be reached by marketers: our guard is down, and the right message at the right time might do the trick.

Compelling content shared on social media can catch our eye and draw us in.

Understanding the power of incidental is key to the social media mindset.

Have you ever experienced the power of incidental, either as a consumer or a marketer?