Social Media Behaviors and Their Differences

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It’s no secret that the way we consume news has changed – you just have to look for a newspaper to see that! But the changes go far beyond simply online and offline, a new Pew Research Center study has found. The impact is being created by the role of social media in the way we learn about our world, and more importantly by the ubiquitous smartphone. And, as Facebook and Twitter dominate the social media scene – at least as far as news consumption – they are the focus of Pew’s research.

On the surface, it might seem obvious that there would be different behavior for Facebook and Twitter users when getting news. But the differences might surprise you.

The Differences in Behavior: Facebook vs. Twitter

  • Facebook delivers the most mobile readers to news sites – more than any other social media site. Twitter’s mobile users spend more time with news content, for both longer and shorter news articles.
  • While social media in general sends the most traffic to longer news stories (as well as shorter ones), the average time these readers spend with the content is below that of other referral types like email links, links from within the same website and even search
  • Facebook sends the vast majority of social media traffic to these news stories: 82% of the social traffic to longer stories and 84% of the social traffic to shorter news articles. Twitter, on the other hand, accounts for just 16% of referrals to longer articles from social sites and 14% for shorter.
  • Twitter users, on the other hand, spend more time once they arrive at news sites than those from Facebook: an average of 133 seconds for longer content and 58 seconds for shorter content, compared with 107 seconds and 51 seconds respectively for those arriving from Facebook
  • Twitter users are about twice as likely to follow breaking news on Twitter: 59% vs. 31% for Facebook. Twitter users are also more likely to directly follow news organizations, reporters, and commentators (46% vs. 28% for Facebook users).
  • Twitter users also report regularly seeing news about four topics at higher rates than Facebook users: sports, business, international affairs and national government and politics
  • Facebook users are more engaged with each other and within the platform itself. About three-in-ten Facebook users (28%) comment on posts about government and politics and 43% “like” these posts. Only 13% of Twitter users reply to tweets about government and politics and 17% who “favorite” them.
  • Over half of Facebook users (52%) and four in ten (43%) Twitter users learn about the presidential election on Facebook or Twitter, respectively
  • Four-in-ten Twitter and Facebook news users say they are an important way to get news, but few describe them as the most important way they get news: 9% for Twitter and 4% for Facebook

Facebook and Twitter – as well as some other social media sites – are firmly entrenched in delivering the news, whether short-form or long-form. As organizations consider how information is disseminated through our society, ignoring social media is a huge risk.

Click here to see our Infographic on Social Media’s Effect on Customer Service

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Christian Wright

Christian Wright is the VP of Client Services at Infosurv. With a master’s in marketing research, he’s equipped to design actionable research that yields impactful insights and drives change.
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