Bit.ly, says that social data can tell us who we are – and who we want to be. Speaking at the Monktoberfest today in Portland, Maine, talked about some of the insights that Bit.ly gets from looking at sharing and click data for Bit.ly links. LeMay has learned that what people share isn't what they click on – and if you want followers, be a cat, not a chicken.Matt LeMay, platform manager at
To kick off the talk, LeMay started by reading from his high school diary. In high school, LeMay says he was "a self-centered jerk" but he was able to escape from his past. With the Internet and social media, "you're not going to be able to get away from what's horrible about" yourself.
Except that social media users have learned the dangers of oversharing. It's performance art, and users (most, anyway) are now savvy enough to present a picture of themselves that they want others to see.
But that's not always effective. LeMay is in a position to see a lot of information about the links that people share and the links they actually click. Just because a link is shared widely, it doesn't mean that it's clicked on, and vice-versa. Links that are clicked a lot may not be that widely shared.
LeMay says that we've moved past the stage where "on the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." We've now entered the cat/chicken phase. "The cat is who you are, the chicken is how you want to be seen."
Kindle Fire vs. Hugh Jackman
To emphasize the point, LeMay scanned data from September 29, the same day that Amazon released the Kindle Fire.
Not surprisingly, information about the Kindle Fire topped the list of shared links. Another popular link was an article on "six ways to become likable" was widely shared. Each had thousands of shares, but but each share only had a few clicks (if any). The Kindle links averaged 17 clicks per link shared.
What was clicked on the most? It wasn't about the Kindle Fire, it was a link to a trailer for Hugh Jackman's latest film Real Steel. LeMay said it had few shares, but a lot of clicks per link shared. Thousands, in fact. The same is true of "a blog with pictures of people with tattoos of guns" (now sadly 404'ed, says LeMay). LeMay says that users were also going crazy for a Kelly Clarkson video premier and something about Kim Kardashian.
The Justin Bieber Problem
Bit.ly has also worked with the federal government in the U.S. on link shortening. NASA, says LeMay, almost always "wins" when it comes to shares and clicks. "Except one day, when the FDA warned Diamond Nuts that its marketing was about to get them classified as a drug, not a food." That document, apparently, was quite popular.
Another key to examining data, says LeMay, is looking below the most popular results. Looking "just below" the very top results gave much more interesting. For instance, LeMay mentioned Twitter's "Justin Bieber problem" – if they didn't filter out the Justin Bieber tweets, it would always be a trending topic. Similarly, Bit.ly looks at the data "just below" the top shared and clicked links to see trends in data that might be missed.
The saddest trend that LeMay has seen? One of the fastest shares and clicked links that LeMay says that he's seen was when Charlie Sheen published his call for a social media intern. "That was a sad day for all of us."
In other words, people may want to be seen reading an article on being likable (or maybe they think their friends need it), they don't want to be seen reading up on Kardashian. But they do.
That's too bad, says LeMay. "Who you are is probably more interesting than who you think you ought to be... being a person is smarter than building your personal brand. We follow people. Kitteh beats chikin."