SocialTwist, the provider of Tell-a-friend content share widget, has just revealed some surprising statistics. Tell-a-friend widgets are similar to Wikio, AddThis or ShareThis content share widgets that allow you to share content present on a web page to multiple sharing services including blogs, IM, social networks and of course the grand-daddy of them all – email!
Going by the twitter mania that is apparent given the rapid growth of twitter, and given the fact that twitter is the most efficient sharing mechanism as in it is a broadcast and not a one-to-one sharing medium, one would have expected that a large number of sharing would be happening via tweets; unfortunately SocialTwist statistics have a different story to tell.
Good old-fashioned email still rules (~60%) when it comes to social sharing. The next in line is another one-to-one sharing medium- Instant Messaging (~25 %) ; and then only come the other one-to-many sharing tools like blogs and social networks (~15%) like Facebook and Twitter.
This is also inline with a statistics that we had published more than a year back giving statistics on posts of trak.in itself.
Twitter by itself makes up only ~1% of all shares but has been growing aggressively with twitter shares growing 23X over the past year. Compare this with twitter year-on-year growth of 1382%. Incidentally in our statistics posted a year back, twitter did even feature in the list.
The reason email has such a large share is because when we look at increasing twitter usage we still forget the fact that most of the blog and web readers are still not on twitter.
The blog writers are all there, they have migrated and adopted to twitter in a big way, and hence so much content about twitter in the blogosphere; but the masses of readers are still not on twitter and have no option but to share via the traditional email.
Also, even if I am on twitter, but twitter has not reached the critical point in my network, then most of the people in my network are not on twitter. When I want to share interesting content from the web, with some particular individual as end-target in my mind, it makes more sense to share not using twitter because though I am on twitter the other fellow might not be. Email comes as the knight in shining armor to the rescue.
Another reason twitter / Facebook sharing might not have taken off is, that there is no way to guarantee that your tweet / Facebook status update will not be lost amongst the numerous other tweets that the person is exposed to , and might never come to the conscious attention of the targeted individual.
You can of course use @mention of that person in twitter and even in FB status updates you can tag your friend, so the solution is there, but it is not intuitive. Also while @mention in twitter is likely to be read by the target person, there is no guarantee that tagging your friend in FB status update will necessarily bring the status update to his attention.
Another method, if twitter really wants to beat email, is if DM were allowed as another option from the sharing buttons/widgets. BY Direct Messaging web content to a particular person you are guaranteed to bring to his attention, and in case you are keen on sharing with a particular person and not with the rest of the world/your network, you have an easy way to do so.
While Jason is surprised and attributes this low usage of twitter to the users not being tech-savvy, I believe psychological and practical factors -like that you want to draw the attention of a particular person only – may continue to rule in favor of email or IM or wavelets (whenever ability to share on Google Wave is integrated in share buttons/widgets) for a foreseeable time to come.