Marketers: Content Sharing Fuels Social-Media Boom

Which gender should brands be targeting to help spread their message? While women outnumber men online -- 53% vs. 47% -- males are more likely to share digital media content -- 51% vs. 49% -- according to a newly released study conducted by AOL and Nielsen.

Men are also more likely -- by a clear margin of 41% to 32% -- to share information they deem "important" and feel will be helpful to others, from how-to tutorials to traffic reports.

"Men will share content that positions themselves as experts," explained Kristin Kovner, senior marketing director at AOL.

Conversely, women are slightly more likely -- 33% vs. 31% -- to share information pertaining to a common interest like politics, arts and parenting. In other words, said Kovner, "women share to build community."

Finding a direct relationship between content sharing and brand messaging, AOL and Nielsen found that a full 60% of content-sharing messages specifically mention a brand or product name.

Overall, 53% of time spent online is directly attributable to content consumption, according to the study. What's more, showing the targeted and personal nature of sharing online, the majority of consumers claim to share content with friends and family.

Email remains the primary sharing tool -- at 66% -- but as Kovner noted, the lines between email and social-networking platforms continue to blur, particularly since Facebook debuted its own email service.

Nearly one-quarter, or 23%, of all social-media messages contain content sharing, while 47% of social-media messages about key focus areas -- including auto, tech, finance, entertainment or news -- contain it.

On a daily basis, about 27 million pieces of online content are shared domestically, according to Nielsen.

As 36% of content shared across social platforms is embedded, AOL suggests branded-entertainment initiatives to ensure that marketing messages are not lost in the sharing process.

Also, since 60% of content shared on social platforms includes a link to an external site, marketers' messages should "be there" when users link back to engage with information.

At the behest of AOL, Nielsen used its NM Incite Social Media Monitoring tools, online behavior panel and attitudinal analysis, tracking more than 10,000 social media messages and surveying more than 1,000 Nielsen Online panel members for 10 consecutive days last December.

The study's main takeaway, at least according to AOL, is the idea that content is responsible for fueling the social media boom, and should therefore remain key to any marketing buy.

"As marketers, content is the way to become involved in that social conversation in an authentic, additive way," said Kovner.

It should be noted, however, that AOL has hinged its future on content, and increasingly competes against social-media platforms for ad dollars.

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