Facebook continues to be the dominant social platform for content sharing, per the latest quarterly report from ShareThis, an unsurprising result given its popularity among American adults. Interestingly, the report finds that of the most prominent social sharing platforms, Facebook’s stature rose the most during 2014, while Twitter experienced a decline. And as the report notes, while Facebook is a “fundamental channel,” other major channels “serve niche interests.”
During Q4, the ShareThis study reports that Facebook accounted for 81% of content shared to social networks, trailed distantly by Pinterest (7%) and Twitter (6%), with no other platform (email included) accounting for more than 2% share of shares (excuse the pun). During the year – between January and December – Facebook gained more than 8% points in its share of total activity, with Twitter’s share of the total receding by 3 points.
Some of Facebook’s gains can be attributable to the rising influence of mobile. As the report details, almost two-thirds of sharing activity in December occurred on smartphones (51.9%) and tablets (14.5%), and Facebook owns the mobile sharing space to a greater extent than the desktop equivalent (85% and 74%, respectively).
One of the interesting parts of the report relates to how sharing activity plays out on different social networks when sorting by content category and device, a dynamic also reported in previous studies (covered by category in Q2 here, and by device in Q3 here). Given that some of the sub-categories are slightly different in the Q4 report, it’s worth taking a look at the updated Q4 data for a refresher and to see what may have changed from prior quarters.
This latest report examines 9 content categories across the largest sharing networks (Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest), deriving an index representing the relative difference between sharing activity on those specific channels and overall sharing activity within a specific category. The following list outlines some of the key highlights from Q4.
- Twitter generated 5% more Arts & Entertainment sharing activity than average, with Facebook about average and Pinterest under-indexing in this category by a significant margin. The results are generally akin to what was found in Q2.
- Pinterest was strongest in the Beauty & Fitness and Shopping categories, generating 190% and 185% more sharing activity than the average, respectively. Both Facebook and Twitter under-indexed in those categories, though Facebook hewed far closer to the average than Twitter.
- Twitter generated 21% more Finance sharing activity than average, with Facebook about average and Pinterest (33% less) under-indexing in this category. Compared to the Q2 report, which looked at the “Business & Finance” category, Twitter’s influence declined, while Facebook picked up some steam.
- Facebook (+8%) over-indexed in Health content sharing activity, while the opposite was true for Twitter (-38%) and Pinterest (-37%). Pinterest’s role appears to have declined in comparison to the Q2 report, which measured “Health & Fitness” sharing activity.
- Twitter, somewhat unsurprisingly, generated above-average sharing activity for news (+21%) and science (+17%) content, with Pinterest far below the average in those categories.
- Sports content sharing continued to be far above-average on Twitter (+157%), to an even greater extent than in Q2.
- Pinterest generated 89% more Shopping content sharing activity than the average across channels, though this was down significantly from Q2.
With respect to content sharing by device and category:
- Desktops generated above-average sharing activity in the Finance (+10%), Science (+8%) and Shopping (+6%) categories, with mobile devices under-indexing in each;
- Smartphones saw above-average activity in the Health (+31%) and Sports (+16%) categories; while
- Tablets over-indexed by the largest amount in the Health (+26%) and Food and Drink (+13%) categories.
Last year, a study from ShareThis argued that social shares could be as influential as in-person recommendations. At the same time, it’s worth noting that ChartBeat has found that there’s no correlation between social sharing and content engagement, and other research claims that a large proportion of content sharing actually happens on “dark social channels,” referring to channels that can’t be tracked by web analytics. So there’s that….