Oversharing or misunderstood: Automatic sharing in social.

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Thursday 27th September 2012, 9-11am. Official Facebook Hub.

We’ve all done it.

Sitting at the top of your news feed, you notice a post that says your friend has recently read an article. It looks interesting, so you click on it and begin to read. Once finished, the app presents another article to read, and before you know it you’ve entered the wardrobe out of Facebook and teleported to their website. Upon your return, you notice that the app has completely taken over your newsfeed with their articles – Aren’t you lucky?

Welcome to the world of automatic sharing.

Last week, Found entered the brightly lit white loft apartment of London’s ‘Official Facebook Hub’ to take part in a Social Media Week automatic sharing conference. Betapond’s Marketing Director Richard Delevan, kicked off the conference as host by stating that 84% of people found something of interest within shared posts.

Aaron Rajan – Director of Digital Marketing of Unilever

Unilever’s Director of Digital Marketing, Aaron Rajan, gave an interesting introduction on their new development, Waterworks. Being the first Facebook app to allow donations in the form of Facebook payments, it heavily relies on automatic sharing to gain new customers. The app will post frequently to update your friends on your donation progress and how much clean water has been raised.

Rob Proctor – CEO of Audio Boo

Next up was Rob Proctor on behalf of Audio Boo, (who kept apologising for forgetting his slides!) who introduced the audience to the positives of automatic sharing:

“Facebook produces no content of its own, as the content is all from its customers. Automatic sharing allows users to experience new causes, events and music that they might not have found before. Sharing self-curates what is going out and others base views on what you have shared.”

Unilever’s Waterworks campaign is a prime example of this.

Chris Lawson – Content Sales & Marketing of The Guardian

As Chris Lawson explained how The Guardian website successfully receives more traffic using Facebook’s automated sharing than from Google, I was feeling that the conference was a bit one sided – what about the negative aspect of sharing? Spam invites? Game requests? Daily horoscopes? The list is endless… By now, I (and the rest of the audience!) was itching, yet patiently waiting until it was time to ask questions. Suddenly, Rob Practor piped up:

“You wouldn’t spam your friends with 40 emails a day, so why is it acceptable on Facebook?”

This was an interesting ‘spanner in the works’ for Chris Lawson, but his answer was that automatic sharing and spam is acceptable; if you don’t like it you have the option to simply turn it off. Which is all very well if it’s your own account, but there’s nothing you can do if you are receiving the automated sharing from your friends (unless deleting them and that wouldn’t be very nice, would it?).

If all automatic sharing was switched off, would we lose something? The answer is both yes and no. Although sharing allows users to follow good causes and find new content, why do we need to know that our friends have just reached a new level, need virtual items sent to them, or that their pixelated crops on Farmville are dying? Have we forgotten the ‘social’ side of Facebook? I want to know the milestones of my friend’s lives, not the milestones of their automated sharing.

With the recent Apple IOS6 upgrade, it’s even easier for automatic sharing. With one click of the Facebook log in button, that’s it. Every check in, like, comment, article read, donation, and photo is posted to Facebook without your individual consent. Your entire life is online and as this video proves, it’s scarily easy to access.

The above video reflects in websites such as www.zeebly.com/social_me who state that they will analyse your Facebook data. After a quick log in to Facebook, I was presented with the total amount of statuses I have written, where I post from, what I talk about, how many words I’ve typed…. Ironically, this website automatically shared itself on my Facebook without even giving me a choice!

The Social Media Week conference poised some interesting thoughts on the automatic sharing debate and I look forward to attending next year. Here are a few points that were raised on what motivates people to organically share content rather than automatic sharing:

  • Brand image – Does your brand produce an honest and positive image? Visible negative customer reviews can seriously damage a brand’s reputation – address these quickly and honestly.
  • Understand and engage with your audience – Explore your audience’s demographics and find out their interests. Produce good quality content (for example, articles, blog posts or recipes) that is relevant to both your brand and customer’s needs.
  • Customer loyalty – Let the audience decide what they want to share. Organic content sharing gives a stronger insight as to what your customer likes, what works and what doesn’t. Find out who engages most with your brand and who the most influential sharers are.

If you have the first two points already nailed, your customers will automatically be willing to share your content.