OTOinsights "An Analysis of Digg.com Engagement and User Behavior"


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This study presents an analysis of user engagement with social media via Digg.com. Understanding the behavior of Digg.com users will help marketers to better represent and promote their material on Digg.com as well as provide insights into the practices of social media users in general.

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OTOinsights "An Analysis of Digg.com Engagement and User Behavior"

  1. 1. Social Media for Marketing: an analySiS of digg.coM engageMent and USer Behavior j e f f rey b a rd z e l l , p h . d . • s h a owe n b a rd z e l l , p h . d . • t y l e r p a c e
  2. 2. execUtive SUMMary : : Social media is a broadly used term that includes a wide range of techniques and tools for leveraging and supporting the sharing of information among people. Internet enabled tools are the locus for social media activity as they provide low-cost access to many people allowing for a new wave of targeted advertising to develop. As social media continues to grow at a near exponential rate, marketers and researchers alike are becoming increasingly interested in the practices of the users who help shape the content at highly participatory social media sites. Digg.com is an exemplar site for user participation in social media and is the focus of this report. Understanding the behavior of Digg.com users will help marketers to better represent and promote their material on Digg.com as well as provide insights into the practices of social media users in general. In this report, we present an analysis of user engagement with social media via Digg.com. Viewer engagement was measured with OTOinsight’s Quantemo™ neuro- marketing research system. Quantemo™ utilizes a multi-modal approach that combines self-report, physiological and neurological data to holistically and reliably measure user engagement with digital media. Analyzing the results from the Quantemo™ sources, we present a set of four insights concerning how users engage with social media and how the cues in social media systems positively inform user behavior. inSightS 1. Users Seek Tailored News Experience and Not “Mass Media” Stories 2. Story Headlines Are the Chief Determinant of Digg Behavior 3. Short, Direct, and Branded Headlines Dominate Digg.com 4. Positive Engagement Scores Associated with Desirable Digg Behavior Copyright © 2008, One to One Interactive www.onetooneinteractive.com 1
  3. 3. introdUction : : Social Media Social media is a broadly used term that includes a wide range of techniques and tools for leveraging and supporting the sharing of information among people. Internet enabled tools are the locus for social media activity as they provide low-cost access to many people allowing for a new wave of targeted messaging to develop. Many consider social media to be a significant divergence for mass media which is traditionally controlled by corporate interests. The inherent expense of participating in traditional media (television, print, radio) prevents the average consumer or small, niche business from fully leveraging the media. However, social media with cheap and distributed tools enables anyone to participate in the dissemination and discussion of information (marketing related or otherwise). Table 1 offers a breakdown of social media systems. It is not exhaustive by any means— social media tends to reinvent itself on a regular basis—but the list does provide concrete examples of popular social media systems used at the time of this report’s development. Social Media eMphaSiS platforM type exaMple communication Blogs, Microblogs Wordpress, twitter collaboration Wikis, Social Bookmarking Wikipedia, delicious Multimedia Video, photo youtube, flickr taBle 1: examples of social media platforms. Copyright © 2008, One to One Interactive www.onetooneinteractive.com 2
  4. 4. digg Launched in December 2004, Digg.com is one of the oldest and most successful social media platforms (Figure 1). Digg.com facilitates the social promotion of “news” via the Internet. News is broadly interpreted on Digg.com to include essentially anything that can be linked to Digg.com. Pictures, videos, technical reports, blog posts, corporate websites, almost anything and everything can serve as acceptable and desirable news on Digg.com. The diversity of content on Digg.com makes it a very broad-based social media system, which covers several of the platform types listed in Table 1. figUre 1: Screenshot of digg.com. Copyright © 2008, One to One Interactive www.onetooneinteractive.com 3
  5. 5. The essential activity on Digg.com is the submission and propagation of stories. Any user can submit a story to Digg.com by providing a URL, headline and description. New stories are then added to the “upcoming” pages on Digg.com where users can browse through and vote, or “digg,” stories they believe belong on Digg.com and should be seen by other users. As a story accumulates “diggs” (votes), it rises towards the top of the “upcoming” page and eventually transfers to the “main” page of Digg.com. Main page content is seen as the premier content of Digg.com which has been vetted by the larger Digg.com community and deemed worthy of viewing by all Digg.com users. It is worth noting that the specific mechanics by which a story is elevated from upcoming to main page are not public knowledge so as to prevent some users from “gaming” the system to harmfully promote their own content. Social NeWS Site UNiqUe ViSitorS (Monthly) yearly GroWth digg 22,810,196 44% delicious 1,595,342 10,505% reddit 2,833,135 105% taBle 2: traffic data for digg.com and its peers. Digg.com is one of the most broadly trafficked social media sites on the Internet with about 50% of traffic coming from outside the US [DIGG]. Additionally, Digg.com is the 33rd most trafficked site on the Internet and receives substantially more traffic than its closest competitors, Delicious and Reddit [COMPETE]. Table 2 provides a breakdown of traffic of Digg, Delicious and Reddit. Even though Delicious is experiencing a phenomenal period of growth, Digg.com has a traffic margin of over 20 million unique monthly visitors. Copyright © 2008, One to One Interactive www.onetooneinteractive.com 4
  6. 6. StUdy As social media continue to grow at a near exponential rate, marketers and researchers alike are becoming increasingly interested in the practices of the users who help shape the content at highly participatory social media sites. Digg.com is an exemplar site for user participation in social media and is the focus of this report. Understanding the behavior of Digg.com users will help marketers to better represent and promote their material on Digg.com as well as provide insights into the practices of social media users in general. OTOinsight’s Quantemo™ system serves as the foundation of this multipart study on social media practices. Quantemo™ allows for the simultaneous capture of multiple biophysical responses (breath rate, galvanic skin response, heart rate) in addition to eye tracking information. After recording the biophysical measures, Quantemo™ combines all of the measures into a single, representative measure of physiological engagement. The Quantemo™ Physiological Index or QPI serves as a single point of reference of the overall level of physical engagement (or disengagement) exhibited by a research participant. Positive QPI scores represent stronger physiological engagement while negative QPI scores represent weaker physiological engagement. Analysis of eye tracking footage, QPI and interrogative data provide the basis for the insights put forth in this report. Specifically, this study asked Digg.com users of varying levels of Digg.com experience to visit Digg.com on a control account and browse through the first three pages of the most popular/main page content. Users were encouraged to browse, digg and bury stories as they would during one of their regular sessions at Digg.com. After completing their Digg.com sessions, participants engaged in a debriefing interview with researchers in which their Digg.com practices were discussed using events from their session as stimulants for questions. Seven individuals participated in the study. The average age of participants is 28 with 1 female and 6 male participants. On a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high) experience with Digg.com, participants reported an average of 4. Finally, participants in this study visit Digg.com an average of two times per day and have been members of the Digg.com community for more than one year. Copyright © 2008, One to One Interactive www.onetooneinteractive.com 5
  7. 7. inSightS In the following sections, we summarize the findings from this study under the headings of the primary insights derived from analysis of the QPI, eye tracking and interview data. inSight 1: Users Seek tailored news experiences and not “Mass Media” Stories Every participant in the study commented that they enjoyed very specific categories of Digg.com content. Whether it was news about current events, video games, lifestyles, etc., Digg.com users are looking for stories which specifically appeal to them and not a broad spectrum of news representative of the structure of traditional media network sites like CNN.com or MSNBC.com. Additionally, participants expressed that they expected the Digg.com system to “automatically” present them with the tailored news experience they desire. Participants identified two methods that create the tailored news experience provided by Digg.com. First, participants shared a universal belief in the ability of the computer-based story promotion system to properly filter “good” stories to wider audiences and to remove “bad” stories from the Digg.com system. Our previous research on emotion, engagement and internet Video identified a similarly steadfast belief in the capability of computer- based systems to successfully filter and recommend Internet videos. Similar to our research on Internet video, participants in the Digg.com study noted a lack of trust in their fellow Digg.com users to always filter stories correctly. Instead, participants believe that the computer-based system will compensate for the errors of their peer human users. Regardless of how stories were delivered to participants, they were expected to be tailored to the interests of user. In other words, Digg.com users desire “context sensitive” stories that appeal directly to the desires and interests (“context”) of the individual user and not a more general demographic. Insight 3 highlights an important method through which Digg.com users facilitate the promotion of contextually appropriate stories through the Digg.com system. Copyright © 2008, One to One Interactive www.onetooneinteractive.com 6
  8. 8. inSight 2: Story headlines are the chief determinant of digg Behavior All stories on Digg.com are composed of four primary components: headline, description, image and the “digg button” which both displays the current number of diggs for a story as well as serving as the interface element through which users digg a story (Figure 2). The Digg.com system limits the amount of text that can be used for the headline and description (350 characters) fields. Additionally, only one image may be selected from a story’s content page to represent that story on Digg.com. During the course of this study, we identified 73 pairs of headlines, descriptions, images and digg buttons with sufficient eye tracking data for analysis. For this study, participants were shown their eye tracking data and assisted the researchers with the interpretation of their eye movement and Digg.com behavior. diGG BUttoN headliNe deScriptioN iMaGe figUre 2 Our analysis reveals that the digg button and the number of diggs associated with each study are the least important criteria for viewing or promoting content. Only in the rare cases where the number of diggs reaches an extreme high (4000+) did users consider it to be a valuable criteria. For the vast majority of stories, participants spent no time considering the current number of diggs. Additionally, the image component, while regularly viewed, was considered to be of minimal value by all participants when evaluating content. Copyright © 2008, One to One Interactive www.onetooneinteractive.com 7
  9. 9. figUre3: heatmap of a digg page. figUre 4: gaze plot of a digg.com page. Headlines and descriptions were more important to users and commanded much more of their eye tracking time. Interesting, headlines and descriptions were almost equal in the amount of viewing time received. Descriptions and headlines were similar (p > .05) in all measures of eye tracking calculated for this study. Figures 3 and 4 depict heat maps and gaze plots of digg activity while Table 3 outlines the eye tracking results for headlines and descriptions. Copyright © 2008, One to One Interactive www.onetooneinteractive.com 8
  10. 10. MeaSUre deScriptioN headliNe aVG. fixatioN coUNt 4.78 4.96 aVG. Gaze tiMe 913.59MS 1146.08MS aVG. fixatioN dUratioN 179.19MS 230.61MS taBle 3: analysis of eye tracking data from digg.com. The most compelling part of the eye tracking data is the fact that they are so similar considering how descriptions contain much more textual content than headlines. All participants spent dramatically more time looking at each headline word compared to each description word. Participant self-reports upon viewing their eye tracking data confirmed the claim that headlines were the single most important factor for influencing their Digg.com behavior. Additionally, participants identified the critical role of headlines in setting expectations for the associated content. If expectations were set too low, users avoid the content. However, if expectations are set too high then the disappointment in the content makes it unlikely the user will digg submission. Insight 3 offers a detailed analysis of Digg.com headlines with recommendations for maximizing the effectiveness of headlines for the promotion of content via Digg.com. inSight 3: Short, direct, and Branded headlines dominate digg.com As noted in Insight 2, headlines are the single most important factor for influencing user behavior on Digg.com. The importance of headlines on Digg.com has not gone unnoticed by the larger Digg.com community and a complex and nuanced use of headlines has developed on Digg.com. For this study, we analyzed the headlines of all 91 stories dugg by our participants. Open-ended analysis of the headlines led to the creation of a set of six heuristics which were then used for further analysis of the 91 dugg headlines. Headline heuristics were developed along two dimensions: categorical and descriptive. Categorical heuristics (Table 4) represent the rhetorical structure of the headline. Descriptive heuristics (Table 5) represent the type of content emphasized in the headline. Copyright © 2008, One to One Interactive www.onetooneinteractive.com 9
  11. 11. heUriStic deScriptioN exaMple “8 cSS techniques for charting data” list headline suggests content in list form. “the 10 Greatest Movie Summers in history” “Best school name ever?” question headline written as a question. “What Sex is your Brain?” “i am an honest Business Man” Statement headline written as a statement. “Brain freeze” taBle 4: categorical heuristics used to analyze dugg headlines. Even though the heuristics were not intended to be exclusive of each other as headlines might overlap in their structure or content, no single headline was simultaneously a list, question and/or statement. Digg.com headlines are clearly delineated along their categorical heuristics. The stark clarity of the rhetorical structure of Digg.com headlines reinforces the fact that Digg.com users are constantly looking for ways to reduce the effort required to read and interpret headlines. Conforming to the primary rhetorical categories of lists, questions and statements facilitates quick headline consumption by Digg.com users. Conversely, multiple descriptive heuristics were regularly identified within single headlines. For example, a headline might be structured as a question, contain a branded quote and identify the linked media. For example, a headline might read “What did Google say about the Android phone platform?. The headline conforms to the categorical heuristic of a ” “question,” includes the brands Google and Android, and identifies that the story links to an image. Headlines with complex uses of descriptive heuristics are very common on Digg.com and do not need to be strayed from by marketers when submitting content. heUriStic deScriptioN exaMple “higher! higher! [pic]” identify headline identifies content type. “results may vary … [coMic]” headline contains a direct quote “Building the ‘Big Bang Machine’” quote from linked story. “Mit tool aims to ‘cut airline delays’” “Google censorship” headline contains an official Branded “Microsoft calling up Gurus to take on brand name. apple’s Geniuses” taBle 5: descriptive heuristics used to analyze dugg headlines. Copyright © 2008, One to One Interactive www.onetooneinteractive.com 10
  12. 12. Statement headlines were the most common, followed much less frequently by questions and lists. Brands were frequently mentioned in headlines, though few quotes were used. These findings suggest that Digg.com users are both interested and accepting of news about popular brands and prefer to have their news delivered in a direct manner (state- ment) which, as many participants put it, reveals the “gist” of the story upon a quick reading. Headlines requiring more effort from the user (question, list) are less frequently dugg. Table 6 lists the complete results of the heuristic analysis. heuristic % of dugg Stories list 9 question 14 Statement 79 identify 14 quote 4 Branded 45 taBle 6: Breakdown of heuristic categories of dugg headlines. In addition to the heuristic analysis of Digg.com headlines, we analyzed the number of words per headline. As previously stated, Digg.com allows for up to 60 characters (approximately 10 words) per headline. The average headline length for the 91 dugg headlines in this study was 7 words. Comparing the number of words in a headline with the number of diggs revealed a negative relationship (r = -.348, p < .001) among the two criteria. In other words, stories with fewer words in the headline were more likely to have more diggs than stories with more words in the headline. Table 8 provides a breakdown of headline length and average number of diggs. headline length average # diggs 5 2213 7 2025 10 1187 taBle 7: headline length and number of diggs. Copyright © 2009, One to One Interactive www.onetooneinteractive.com 11
  13. 13. Our analysis of Digg.com headlines suggest Digg.com users prefer short, direct and revealing headlines. Underestimating the importance of headlines on Digg.com almost guarantees the failure of your submission. As one participant, a very successful Digg.com user and web development blogger, stated “I spend almost as much time researching and writing my headline as I do my entire post!” inSight 4: Positive engagement Scores associated with desirable digg Behavior As previously mentioned, the Quantemo™ system measures a suite of physiological signals (heart rate, breath rate, body temperature, skin conductance) and combines those measures into a single measure of physiological engagement called the QPI or Quantemo™ Physiological Index. Positive QPI numbers reflect heightened physiological activity while a negative QPI represents depressed physiological activity. The QPI is useful in measuring engagement because heightened physiological activity is associated with positive emotional states while depressed physiological activity is associated with negative emotional states. For this study, QPI was calculated for each participant while they were engaged with the Digg.com system (interactions with content sites were not consistent enough for valid QPI data). Participants were then separated into high (top 25%) and low QPI (bottom 25%) groups. Separating participants into high and low QPI groups based on their interactivity with Digg.com itself allows us to compare engagement with desirable social media outcomes (digging stories, viewing content). Table 8 provides a comparison of social media behavior in relation to high and low engagement scores. aVeraGe qpi % StorieS dUGG % coNteNt VieWed hiGh eNGaGeMeNt 1.36 84 71 loW eNGaGeMeNt -1.72 28 13 taBle 8: average engagement scores for high and low QPi compared to social media behavior. Copyright © 2008, One to One Interactive www.onetooneinteractive.com 12
  14. 14. Participants in the high QPI group were more likely to digg stories, had a higher average gaze time, number of fixations and fixation duration. Consequently, participants in the low QPI group dugg fewer stories, had fewer fixations, lower fixation duration and gaze time. While these trends are not yet statistically significant (p < .1), they show promise for demonstrating a relationship between user engagement and desirable social media behaviors. As these trends suggest, the engagement level of the social media platform itself may impact the behaviors of users. Those who contribute to social media platforms should consider how their involvement (via the submission of content and crafting of headlines/descriptions) might heighten user engagement which in turn facilitates the creation and maintenance of a more desirable and receptive audience. Copyright © 2008, One to One Interactive www.onetooneinteractive.com 13
  15. 15. conclUSion Digg.com represents a “long tail” approach to marketing [ANDERSON]. As our study demonstrates, Digg.com users intentionally seek out tailored, niche news experiences on Digg.com. While “mass media” styled stories can find success on Digg.com, all of our participants felt that the real benefit of Digg.com is filtering the niche story and turning it into a main stream (for Digg.com) headline. The careful crafting and interpretation of story headlines is the chief mechanism by which Digg.com users develop their tailored news experience. Crafting proper headlines is no easy task, but marketers (much more so than the average Digg.com users) are extremely experienced in crafting precise messages with limited space and should have no problem crafting successful Digg.com headlines after understanding the expectations set forth by the Digg.com community for story headlines. The insights discussed in this study offer some guidelines on how to maximize exposure on Digg.com and generate interest a submission. Collectively, the insights in this report form two major pieces of advice for marketers submitting and monitoring stories on Digg.com. • headlines are the key to success. Without a contextual, direct and short headline digg.com users are much less likely to proceed to viewing the associated content. including brands and branded messages in headlines is both acceptable and encouraged. digg.com users are not put off by marketing efforts, so long as those efforts conform to the general expectations of digg.com use outlined in this report. • Marketers have some control over how engaging the digg.com experience is to visitors via the comment section associated with each story submission. an active comment section on a digg.com story page increased engagement for all participants and was a key indicator for digging or viewing a story. Marketers are encouraged to participate in the comments on their own digg.com submissions in order to promote activity regarding the story. This study represents the first in a multipart series on social media. This study presents a developing association between engagement (as measured through the QPI) with social media systems and desirable social media behaviors (digging stories, viewing content, etc). Future work in this series will focus on the content itself and how engaging content influences social media decisions. Finally, the series will connect the two threads, system engagement and content engagement, to determine how exactly the two types of engagement interact with each other and inform user decisions on social media systems. Copyright © 2008, One to One Interactive www.onetooneinteractive.com 14
  16. 16. referenceS Anderson, Chris. (2006). The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More. Digg. http://blog.digg.com/?p=256 Compete. http://www.compete.com/ Copyright © 2008, One to One Interactive www.onetooneinteractive.com 15
  17. 17. aMPlifying USer engageMent New knowledge about human behavior brought to light by social and neuroscience has fundamentally called into question the old mental models of how advertising and marketing work. Gone is the notion that consumers make decisions in a linear think-feel-do way and behavior is guided by rational-only principles. Instead, memories, emotions, associations, and thoughts play a primary role in how individuals relate and ultimately engage with brands. OTOinsights is a primary research offering that is breaking new ground in neuro- marketing to offer clients advanced and scientific levels of insights into how their consumers engage with them across the landscape of new media channels. to learn more about otoinsights, visit www.otoinsights.com coMPlete one-to-one SolUtionS for BrandS, agencieS, and PUBliSherS OTOinsights is a One to One Interactive company. Established in 1997, One to One Interactive is the first enterprise to assemble a complete solution for brands, agencies, and publishers executing one-to-one marketing strategies. By bringing together one of the nation’s leading digital marketing agencies, the world’s most comprehensive portfolio of permission marketing platforms, unique performance-based social media networks, and cutting-edge neuromarketing research techniques, the companies of One to One Interactive build informed and creative customer/constituent strategies on the belief that digital media’s ability to enable engaging one-to-one dialogues is the future of marketing. to learn more about one to one interactive, visit www.onetooneinteractive.com OTOinsights 529 Main Street, Charlestown, MA 02129 617.425.7300 www.otoinsights.com info@otoinsights.com Copyright © 2008, One to One Interactive www.onetooneinteractive.com 16