What People Search for vs What People Share

By   |   June 25th, 2015   |   Reading time: 4 minutes Other

We take a look at the difference between the most searched news stories in Google, and the most shared stories in Spike, over 24 hours. 

Last week, Google launched a revamped version of Google Trends, which features a more ‘story-centric’ homepage. The new feature puts a clearer structure on what exactly people are searching for, over different time periods.

At NewsWhip, we’re also in the trending content space, but are measuring a different signal of interest. We track all social interactions around stories, videos, and more, collecting their likes, Facebook comments, tweets and shares, to build a picture of what social media users around the world are really engaging with in real time.

The result is often surprising, but never dull.

It makes sense that what people share on social media could be a lot different to what they’re searching for in Google.

Interested in taking a quick look at how top searches and top shares differed over one day, we looked at some of the most searched terms in Google over 24 hours, and compared those topics and stories to what people were sharing on social media in the same time period, using Spike.

In Spike, we looked at the 24 hour US view of stories shared on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. On Google Trends, we analysed the top US stories for June 25th.

Here’s the breakdown between the two:

search vs social

As you can see, there wasn’t any cross-over on any of the top five.

Accessing the content itself is a key distinction in search vs social. People search for things they want to know more about, while they share things that arouse emotions – anger, amusement, joy – or that they find interesting.

It was revealing to see how the top searches all involved big names: Ben Affleck, Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus. Looking at Google’s Trending Searches for the last few days, this seems to be a staple theme of the top search charts.

These names pop back into the news cycle all the time. Sometimes, the reasons provoke particular curiosity. Who is playing at Jay-Z’s new music festival? Why are lots of people suddenly tweeting about Ben Affleck? In these cases, a quick Google search is the quickest route to feeling informed and up-to-date. But it’s possible that many of these stories don’t follow through with any particular emotion, meaning that the reader consumes the information, but doesn’t go as far as to share.

Having said this, when we compare the top Google Trends topics to what’s coming up in Spike, we also see a lot of cross-over. For instance, the Ben Affleck story was huge in Spike, with the biggest story – ‘Citing Ben Affleck’s ‘Improper Influence,’ PBS Suspends ‘Finding Your Roots‘, from the New York Times, attracting over 8,000 social interactions. The platform picked up 154 related stories around ‘Ben Affleck’.

In Spike, the big stories getting traction on social media were around big issues in the news over the last few days – Taylor Swift’s rejoinder to Apple Music’s revenue model, the Confederate Flag debate, and Whole Foods’ overpricing charges. Most of these issues were covered extensively by different sites, as shown in Spike:

Spike social vs search

The top US News stories over 24 hours were:

1) Taylor Swift (The Washington Post)

2) The Confederate Flag (NPR)

3) Panda Twins in China (Yahoo/ABC)

4) Whole Foods Overcharging (NBC News)

5) Bernie Sanders and Cornel West (Salon)

For editors, content creators, marketers, and anyone else with an interest in how people access, consume and distribute content online, an unabridged mindset is important. What’s relevant to my audience now? How are they likely to reach that content? And will they see it as being worth sharing with their friends?

In future, we’ll be interested to look at the breakdown of search versus social in different countries, and by different categories. Being able to see what people are searching for in real time gives us a better understanding of how people reach content online.

And if it’s interesting enough, you’ll see it trending in Spike.

What Next?

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