This week, Facebook researchers pushed out the results of an ambitious experiment that involved a quarter-billion Facebook users and the sharing of 75 million different links over a 2-month period. The endeavor was designed to answer a specific question: if a friend shares a link on Facebook, how much more likely are you to share that link than if you’d never seen it on Facebook? And whose stuff, exactly, are we sharing? Just the links provided by our close friends?
The method separated users into two groups: one group got to see what links their friends were sharing on Facebook, the other group didn’t get to see any shared links.
The study is filled with nifty facts. Here are the five coolest:
1. On average, you are more than 7 times more likely to share a link on Facebook if you’ve seen the link from one of your friends. But the absolute chance of anyone re-sharing a specific link is low: 0.191 percent if you’ve seen a friend had shared the link, 0.025 if you didn’t.
2. One out of every 12.5 clicks on a Facebook link leads to a share. That suggests that fewer than 3 percent of all links get clicked, which explains the low sharing behavior on any specific link.
3. The median time it takes someone to share a link they’ve seen a friend post is 6 hours. That means half of all shares take place even more quickly, a measure of how fast the “news cycle” is on Facebook.
4. Not surprisingly, we’re more likely to share content from closer friends. A person who had commented on a friend’s item more than three times over 3 months was 2.86 times more likely to share an item from that friend than a person who had never commented on that friend’s items. This held true — and the effect was even stronger — when people didn’t see their friend’s links: those who were closer friends were far more likely to post the same link than more distant friends, suggesting that close friends tend to have similar information-consuming habits.
5. More than 80 percent of shared linked came from “weak” friends, as measured by the use of the Facebook message system. We tend to have 10 to 20 times more weak ties on Facebook than strong ones. That huge number of more distant acquaintances, mathematically swamps our the fact that we’re more likely to share info from close friends.
Interested in learning more? The author of the study has a post up on Facebook going into a bit more detail.