Thanks to an initiative from websites to incorporate social media sites into their articles and blog posts, social websites are more popular that ever when it comes to sharing content online. The Guardian, a United Kingdom online and print newspaper, reports that UK newspapers are getting about one third of their traffic from online aggregators and social media sharing sites like Digg, Facebook and Stumble Upon.
The surge in sharing may be due to the fact that many websites are now making it a standard practice to include buttons for sharing their content on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and other social networking sites.
CNN.com is a great example of being one of the first sites to incorporate Facebooks new recommend feature that allows users to recommend content to friends and see which of their friends are already sharing content.
Facebook had teamed up with over 75 websites to offer this customized sharing service according to an announcement on Facebooks blog in April 2010. Facebooks increased presence on these major websites is helping internet users not only see what their friends are reading and sharing online, but also helping them maintain a social presence on websites they visit on a regular basis. Besides helping users have a better experience and driving more users to Facebook, the Recommend and Share features also drive traffic back to the websites utilizing this feature, which also includes the business review site Yelp.
Separating Information by Topic
Along with combining in-line sharing with their content, news sites are also sharing their content online themselves- via Twitter and Facebook, especially. Adam Sherk on Social Times in an article about the new Digg mentions that some of the top news networks are segregating their main categories as way to separate the flow of information for readers in order to make it easier to share.
Two of the sites Adam mentions are Forbes and NBC, but MSNBC does this as well. Separating by geographical area or subject category is the most common. This provides an easy way for people to get content faster by following only certain accounts without getting inundated with content they arent interested in.
Combining Information With Social News Aggregators
Besides social sharing sites and networks, social news aggregators also allow blogs, news sites, and article publishers the chance to receive large amounts of traffic just from users sharing their content. Websites like Digg and StumbleUpon focus mainly on sharing links, whereas websites like PopUrls and AllTop post excerpts/summaries/headlines of content that is being promoted on other websites. PopUrls and AllTop are social aggregators, that take the RSS feeds of other sharing sites (like Digg) and popular blogs and post links to them and their content.
These types of websites exist because they give users a one-stop resource for viewing the top content of all the popular sites online, on a single website. Therefore, sites with the actual content benefit because not only is their content being shared through social media sites like Digg, it also has a chance to be re-aggregated on RSS aggregator sites.
Separating and Combining, But is it Still Information Overload?
While social media sites and aggregators can do a lot of good for news and content sites, there is a potential downfall- the overload of information. Thousands of Twitter accounts exist solely to re-tweet links from popular users and then sneak in spam links of their own. Furthermore, how many Twitter (and other social media) users re-tweet, recommend, digg, or share content without reading it first? If a headline looks good or another person has shared it, do users just recommend it to their connections without making sure its something they want to put their name behind? This is one of the possible downfalls to using social media to share news and content– sharing without actually reading. Users want to be active online, but are news sites actually benefiting, if their content isnt really being read?