One of the metrics used by social media these days is the number of times a piece of content is shared by its users. A recent article in Social Times questions whether this shared content is actually read, or is it simply being passed back and forth? In other words, is the metric meaningful?

The article quotes the CEO of Chatbeat, a company that tracks usage data across social networks. They have been unable to find a correlation between social shares and people actually reading what they are sharing. Could it be that we see a headline we find interesting and send tweets and likes out about it without actually reading it?

It was pointed out that a connection can easily be made between number of tweets and web page traffic, but not between content that is most heavily consumed and that which is most heavily tweeted. One interesting note people who consume an entire article are more likely to share it than people who skim it. But people who read about a quarter of an article are more likely to share than those who read more or less of it.

The upshot is that counting page views based on sharing may not be as relevant as once thought. Now some companies are tracking actual minutes spent on content as an engagement metric as opposed to page views. This is important to companies trying to figure out where they want exposure more heavily shared pages may not get the kind of engaged viewership they are looking for.