How often do people share with URL vs. Button?

16 Dec 2011 - 2:50am
2 years ago
8 replies
872 reads
lunytnz
2011

In a recent usability study, when I asked participants to share some info with their friends, some people clicked the Share button on the page, but some people copied the URL out of the address field in the browser and e-mailed it to their friend.  Since this behavior is impossible to capture via analytics, I'm wondering how widespread this behavior might be?  Have you observed this (copy URL) behavior in your own usability studies?  If so, how often did it happen?  I'm wondering if it's a small minority (10%) behavior or a majority (50%+) behavior?

Comments

19 Dec 2011 - 7:50am
Dave Malouf
2005

Wouldn't it depend on other variables? Ie platform, type of content, type of person (ie their built up prev experience)? 

I would find it quite impossible to generalize this at all, and not sure why you would have to. If you want to push ppl to a more traceable system, which I could see as a noble goal, you'll have to give them a reason why your issue would be important to them.

19 Dec 2011 - 1:27pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

I've seen this a lot in our observations. I wouldn't be surprised to find out it's the majority behavior.

There's a lot of confusion over what "share" buttons do and how much control the user has. They don't know if they can craft their own message or if it will spam all their friends without their knowing.

For many folks, copying the link into their preferred communication tool gives them total control.

Jared

20 Dec 2011 - 2:57am
Larry Tesler
2004

I think Jared nailed it.

Some sites with sharing buttons put a reassuring message near the buttons saying something akin to: "We won't use these email addresses for other purposes" or "We will only use these addresses to email this article" or "Don't worry, we won't spam your friends" or "We'll use these addresses just once".

Others sides put a simple link to the site's privacy policy or terms of service. That's usually more compact. But so few users will follow the link that it won't serve to reassure many visitors.

Larry

20 Dec 2011 - 12:18pm
Neicole Crepeau
2009

Copying and pasting appears to be the dominant method. See this study from AddThis, which makes sharing buttons. http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/media-lab/social-media/149922/limited-use-of-sharing-buttons-shows-desire-to-share-links-privately/ They found 70%-95% of sharing was via copy/paste. Note also what they say about email sharing. 

20 Dec 2011 - 1:06pm
Adam Korman
2004

You could (at least in theory) track the usage of links shared from the address bar on the "sharee" side by adding some extra stuff to the URL. Look at an Amazon.com's url for a product page, for example: http://www.amazon.com/Designing-Interactions-Bill-Moggridge/dp/0262134748/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1324403663&sr=8-1

The stuff before the final slash is all you actually need to get to the product page, so the part starting with ref=sr_1... is (at least in part) internal tracking info. So you could probably throw some additional stuff in there (a hash of user ID and/or timestamp maybe?) to track sharing via the address bar. It wouldn't be foolproof, but might provide some additional data.

I'm not aware of companies that actually use this in practice -- maybe Larry could comment on whether Amazon does something like this?

-Adam

20 Dec 2011 - 3:06pm
martinsz
2011

I think the AddThis study shared by Neicole used a similar technique, adding an indentifier in the URL after the hash (#) in order to track sharing.I've also worked on several campaings that used unique ids in URLs to track link sharing.
Martín.

2011/12/20 Adam Korman <adamk@flexid.com>

You could (at least in theory) track the usage of links shared from the address bar on the "sharee" side by adding some extra stuff to the URL. Look at an Amazon.com's url for a product page, for example: http://www.amazon.com/Designing-Interactions-Bill-Moggridge/dp/0262134748/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1324403663&sr=8-1

The stuff before the final slash is all you actually need to get to the product page, so the part starting with *ref=sr_1... *is (at least in part) internal tracking info. So you could probably throw some additional stuff in there (a hash of user ID and/or timestamp maybe?) to track sharing via the address bar. It wouldn't be foolproof, but might provide some additional data.

I'm not aware of companies that actually use this in practice -- maybe Larry could comment on whether Amazon does something like this?

-Adam

(((
20 Dec 2011 - 4:03pm
Adam Korman
2004

I think the AddThis study shared by Neicole used a similar technique,

I must have started writing my comment before I noticed the link to the AddThis info -- yes, that's exactly what I was talking about. AddThis looks like a nice, simple way to get sharing (and sharing analytics) on a site.

20 Dec 2011 - 6:07pm
Larry Tesler
2004

Extra params in the URL help Amazon.com to preserve shopping state from page to page when the user has disabled cookies. They also identify affiliates who will be paid for sending traffic that results in purchase.

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