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Amplified Publishing Category

Sharing is snaring

by James Binns

How can we get better at sharing? When we talk about Amplified Publishing, we are really talking about ways for content to reach a wider audience. It’s one of the biggest challenges of the media in the 2020s. The tools of production and distribution are now widely available, but the last leap to reaching audiences is tough, with difficulties around getting content found, including over-supply of content, limited organic reach on social media and tight controls on owned environments and channels.

There are ways to get content to audiences - owning your own channel and distribution would be a favourite, building a brand inside someone else’s store or community is fraught with risk. One of the biggest underutilised opportunities is how content creators use share buttons.

I have been pondering share buttons, as part of my Industry Fellowship on Amplified Publishing. It's super relevant to the theme. And sharing is one of the most obvious ways to help content reach a wider audience

Share buttons are often an oversight. Maybe we don't need share buttons at all, if it's so easy to share on mobile? And maybe share buttons are a big waste of time, as platforms like Facebook squash the virality of content.

I decided to look at share buttons on some of the biggest sites in the world and a few local ones in the South West region.

I've done my research on desktop apps... because... erm... that's where I am sitting typing.

The first thing to assert, is that it's not always in the interest of a platform to drive shares to another platform. Platforms are eager to build in social elements early on and then they pull up the ladder and stop playing nicely. All the early Spotify growth for example was built off the back of the Facebook social graph. And that collaboration is long gone.

Speaking of Spotify, let's kick off with them.

Spotify has a Share menu drop down, hidden behind the “More Horizontal Icon”... that's the ellipsis in non-jargon. Click Share on that menu and you get a chance to Copy URL or embed playlist or track. Hiding it there is the equivalent of the Douglas Adams quote. “It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”

Amazon Prime Video next.

Here I am on the super disturbing Darren Aronofsky movie mother! In case you're thinking of watching it... my tip is that this is not a date movie. Amazon gives no encouragement to share And I don't think that is specific to mother!

Amazon does plug Watch Party though. But you need to click through twice to get a social link. The Open Graph implementation is pretty poor. See how it doesn't pull in a title from the show or even name the show...

Also, note Amazon doesn't plug its social channels across the site. I imagine this is to reduce the volume of support enquiries via direct message.

Amazon cherishes its user data. A big Facebook share functionality would just drive more data into Facebook's data pool for re-targetted advertising. The Facebook advertising algorithm would just love to know exactly what products folk are looking at on Amazon

Here's Netflix. Netflix social channel channels are plugged at the base of the page. I'm highlighting a much nicer show, Motherland (a show which is nothing like mother!). See how there is no share functionality on content pages.

Here's iPlayer. Motherland again. Ah, the wonderful Motherland. No share buttons here. And no social icons on the page.

Here's Channel 4. Rick and Morty this time. No share buttons on shows or pages. No social icons for brand channels at the footer of the pages.

That's five national brands done. Now let's look at five local ones.

The Watershed is all in. They've even added WhatsApp. The only brand in the set to do that.

Nice work from the Tobacco Factory with Tweet and Share call to actions

The Bristol Vic does something super cool and unique in the set... but then follows up with something a little odd

They celebrate the creator - linking out to their channels

I really like that. But then they don't have share buttons for the actual event itself

The Theatre Royal in Bath uses a plug-in called AddtoAny. It's a nice execution

The Little Cinema in Bath Is part of the Picture House Group. There are no sharing icons or calls to action on shows.

The business does maintain local and national accounts But, the icons to follow the local chain are pretty subtle.

Last of all, I took a quick peep at my business Network N. We run a bunch of games sites and for some mystifying reason we gave up on share buttons and replaced them with some text at the bottom of features with links encouraging follows. Here’s an example on our best MMOs guide… and it’s rubbish.

So what did I learn? I learnt that share buttons are chaotic. There's no standard or best practice.

There is a gap. There is no single sharing standard for the arts. We could build better buttons with some kind of collaboration between businesses baked in. Where everyone can feel good about running them and get something meaningful back from the share.

So what did I learn? I learnt that share buttons are chaotic. There's no standard or best practice.

How might this work? We could start where the already engaged audiences are consuming content with better calls to action. This would include improved presentation of the buttons and recognition of the channels content is getting shared to. For example if a user arrives at content via a Facebook post, they are most likely to share that content on Facebook, so that could be the most prominent button. A well designed share would pull content in from the page in a better way - rather than just grabbing the title of the article. You could even pull together content from multiple channels into one single flow to give a more holistic view of the content a creator is producing. There’s a world of tools to build if we really want to get better at sharing.