In many cases, the way someone refers to a person or topic of conversation can reveal how that person feels about the subject. The same can go for sharing: the way people share content about a subject can say a lot about how they feel/think about it.
Case in point: in September and October, we saw a great deal of political conversation around health care reform in the social world. As members of Congress debated the constitutionality of the President’s healthcare plan, social activity on Facebook and Twitter gave indication as to people’s thoughts as well.
In the course of the debate, one of the topics was how to correctly refer to the President’s healthcare plan. Historically, the health care plan was affectionately referred to as “Obamacare,” but in the time preceding the government shutdown, it became referred to as the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Such a topic as polarizing as this can show just how divided people can be based on their social activity.
Looking at sharing that occurred for content related to the Affordable Care Act, we see people were more likely to share and engage via Facebook or address bar sharing (i.e. copy/pasting the URL of an article into an email or IM). The content shared was more about the benefits and the impact of the program.
Social activity for the term “Obamacare” followed a similar pattern. Content was shared predominantly on Facebook, but Twitter was the second most used method of sharing.
As you would suspect, “Obamacare” related articles were more news and opinion-based, rather than the benefits/impact the ACA shares indicated. This falls in line with the Obama administration’s decision to use ACA as the official term for the health care bill.
When you move past the top two “share to” methods, the topics begin to show their differences. For example, people were 2x more likely to print content with “Affordable Care Act” in the title, and nearly 4x more likely to use other sharing methods such as MySpace, Tumblr, and address bar sharing.
Chatter specifically about the government shutdown was high, and told an interesting story of its own. For example, the sharing/clicking patterns for “Government Shutdown” content was similar to that of Affordable Care Act content; sharing occurred primarily on Facebook, then address bar sharing.
Much of the popularly shared content about the shutdown were stories about people who were adversely affected. The Tuesday after the government shutdown, 80 World War II veterans were undeterred in their mission to visit the World War II memorial. Another popular story was about the billionaire couple who’d donate to keep an important community program running.
So, next time you’re curious about how people feel toward a hot topic, just hop on Facebook and Twitter to find out.