Social media sharing peaked in 2015 and has declined by approximately 50-percent as of late 2017, data compiled by BuzzSumo reveals. Even though the volume of posted content increased in the meantime, that influx of new re-sharing candidates also ramped up the overall level of competition for user engagement, the study suggests. While the overall volume of shares on social media platforms is increasing, private sharing is presently surging, with a steadily growing number of users now being more likely to share content via personal messaging services such as WhatsApp, Viber, Snapchat, and Facebook's Messenger, all of which are used for what BuzzSumo refers to as "dark sharing."
Content discovery trends are also shifting, with Google Search and Facebook not being as dominant as they once were, even though approximately every second Internet user still relies on at least one of those two platforms to discover news. Direct visits to websites of publications are now becoming more common, with 41-percent of Internet users practicing them in the third quarter of 2017, according to a recent HubSpot Trends Survey. A small number of publications is still dominating the vast majority of online engagement, with 95-percent of articles published in 2017 attracting less than 350 shares and over 90-percent of them drawing in less than ten. The changes to Facebook's News Feed algorithm are believed to have played a major role in the largely declining number of social media shares, with the company actively working to combat clickbait such as "You won't believe what happened next" titles.
The major trends observed by the study are likely to become even more pronounced going forward, with Facebook presently rolling out its polarizing News Feed revamp that essentially purges its landing page from the vast majority of content posted by publishers. While viral content isn't expected to go extinct in the future, the overall percentage of posts that go viral is now on a steep decline, further concentrating the power of audience reach. The newly reported trends may suggest digital media should start distancing itself from social platforms while searching for new growth generators, especially as even popular and high-effort content remains difficult to monetize.