In 2009, when we first started benchmarking the form of content and how it is shared in social media, we found that the average blog post was 800 words in length. By 2011, that had dropped to 300 and now in 2013, it has dropped to around 200 words per post. In September of 2010, we first described how consumers using social media were mostly “snacking” and creating “snippets” of information/content.
Snippety, Snip, Snip
The creation of snippets of content in 2013 has increased by about 40% from our benchmark study in 2010. We believe this is largely driven by the use of mobile devices. Writing a lot of text is less common today.
Content is Comment
Our view on Twitter’s success is precisely because it is short and focused. It is a running dialogue and a quick way of sharing. Once Vines came on the scene, this rapidly increased. In the under 25 segment, snippets of content are the way. Apps that provide quick features like emoticons and ranking (i.e. +1 or Like) are adopted quickly by youth. As mobile devices increasingly account for what is put on and shared in social media, snacking on content and creating snippets will be the majority of content in the social web.
Now we see that Tumblr has become a “hub” of sorts fed by Twitter, Plurk, Pinterest, Instagram and Vines for the most part. In a sense, Tumblr has become a public form of Evernote – the public place where people share their digital lives and express their real-world lives publicly. Pinterest is similar in this sense, but is largely just a photo repository since it’s features are more limited than Tumblr. The flexibility of Tumblr and it’s seamless integration with short-content apps like Twitter and Instagram are, we believe, a fundamental element to why it will succeed and remain popular. Kudo’s to Yahoo! for protecting it.
Polarization & Organisation
As part of this trend in snacking on content and creating snippets for people to snack on, another behavioural element has emerged – quick polarization on issues. We know that social media can tend to form echo chambers. This is increasingly so and people are following a herd mentality very quickly, forming opinions and standing strong to them. People do not generally like to back down on an issue they support; especially it would seem, online. What that also means is that people are using social media tools, especially where they can access features from a SmartPhone, to organise – as in a petition, a group opposing or supporting an issue or some form of real-world activity (e.g. protests, dinner, birthday party.)
Implications for Government (Digital Diplomacy etc.)
Monitoring and analysing citizens on their views and opinions or actions they are about to take on an issue will be harder and easier at the same time. Harder since polarisation may be quicker and the myths that form can become the narrative much faster – making it harder to create messaging that can change opinions. Easier because citizens are saying more about public policy issues, so there will be more insight for government to meet citizens expectations. Governments will also have to learn how to create snippets of content that can quickly and easily be shared, focusing on the “meat” of a policy or bill to be on a departmental website or blog or via a good video…departments & ministries creating mini-documentaries? Maybe.
Implications for Business
The same issues of monitoring and analysing around citizens comes into play for consumers. When a PR crisis hits, it is likely to become even more intensified. A crisis might also become shorter as well, as people move quickly onto the next issue. Which also means a company might lose a lot of sales fast. Fortunately, handled well, the same company will have an opportunity to revive from the bad issue. If they engage correctly. Companies must now also engage quicker with consumers and take the same content approach governments will have to do.