The Once and Future King

There are several fresh studies on what it is that people post on Twitter, Facebook and other social media, including analysis of the large number of links people share in these posts.

Here are three facts that business executive and communications professionals need to think about because this research affects how they reach customers, investors, employees and others.

  • First, much of what is discussed in social media is instigated by events in the news. One study found that 85% of what is discussed on Twitter is directly linked to news stories.
  • Second, the largest number of links people share with friends and followers in their social media posts typically come from coverage of news stories by major media organizations.
  • Third, the top 30 news sources among links shared on social media largely are from traditional news outlets including wire services, newspapers and television networks although there are some fresh names including niche media as Politico and TMZ.

Does this surprise you?

Consider the protests in the Middle East. Clearly word spread from that first revolution in Tunisia via online means including social media to other countries. There were examples of people using social media to report on what was happening in Tunis, Cairo and other cities.

But it was not social media reporting to people around the world what was happening in Tunis, Egypt, Syria and Yemen. Rather, it was social media carrying mainstream media stories about breaking events in these countries.

This is not to say there is not original content on social networks. There are plenty of tremendous insights and observations shared on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks, particularly as their popularity grows. But perhaps there is less than previously thought.

This is to say though that the major mainstream media – Associated Press, Bloomberg, Reuters, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC, CNN and many more – control and in fact actually dominate online conversations about what is happening everywhere in the world.

What does this trend of increased social media discussions on news events and of sharing links from traditional media mean for you as a business or communications leader?

It means an even greater concentration of power among the big brands in mainstream media – and many of them do not yet comprehend that they may be the once and future king of content in communications – to shape both the online and the personal conversations we all have.

What that surprising yet accelerating concentration of power means for business leaders and communications professionals is that there are compelling opportunities to utilize what remains the power of the press to tell your story, to reach your audiences, to support your goals.

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