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TAMU Webmaster's Blog

Information and insight from the A&M Webmasters

The Impact of “Sharing” News Stories

November 13th, 2013 by Erick Beck

We made a minor change to one of our sites last week that had a dramatic effect on me, and really brought home how powerful the social media movement is…and thereby how important it is for our marketing efforts. At first glace the change looked innocuous enough … we were asked to move the “share” icons on our news stories from the bottom of the page to the top so that more people would be tempted to click the button.

The news site is built in WordPress, so of course these icons were part of a WordPress plugin. An old one as it turned out, that didn’t make it easy to change the location of where it gets displayed on the page. The icons were a bit small too, so we decided it would be easier to simple drop it and go grab a different plugin instead. The difference was night and day.

The old plugin simply displayed the icons for people to click. The new one, (AddThis), went a whole lot further. I had used AddThis several years ago, but its capabilities have grown immensely since them. Now it lets you set up an account so that you can log in and view the analytics of how your content is being shared. Not only can you track the actual clicks and shares on your site, but it shows the added reach that your content gets from being added to social media platforms.

The “viral lift” is the extra clicks that your story gets from those social platforms. One of our stories from this week, for example, has been shared 114 times. Those 114 shares have led to an additional 4,454 visits to that story, which was 75% of the total page views.

Looking across the board, links from social media dwarf all of the other avenues by which people find content on the news site. For most sites, Google is far and away the largest referrer. For the entire news site it is Facebook instead, by a wide margin.

I will be the first to admit that I would have never imagined this kind of shift had we not been asked to make that one seemingly insignificant change. Now, I really have to step back and completely re-evaluate our strategy for integrating social media into everything that we are doing. If sharing can boost visibility on these news stories, we have to start looking at how much it can add everywhere else.

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013 Social Media
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