Even the most contentious US presidential election in American history had no leg in the race when it came to captivating readers’ attention and the sought after digital currency of clicks. COVID-19, Halloween, and refrigerators (yes, refrigerators) were subjects of the most clicked-on articles leading up to election week on both Facebook and Twitter.
Not even a reality TV president can compete with reality TV news.
Instead of reading articles about whether president-elect Joe Biden was making inroads in key battleground states, President Donald Trump’s growing popularity among Latino voters, or how each candidate plans to handle the Covid pandemic, Facebook users were more concerned with Kris Jenner’s Halloween costume and the status of former American Idol contestants.
SocialFlow conducted an analysis of the 30 most clicked-on links shared on social media across its publishing partners, and the results indicate a stark contrast between Facebook and Twitter in terms of what stories generated the most interest.
Five of the Top Facebook Stories
“American Idol Alum Nikki McKibbin Dies” (The Today Show)
Five of the Top Twitter Stories
“Can you tell a ‘Trump’ fridge from a ‘Biden’ fridge?” (The New York Times)
The Facebook list is dominated by articles with more light-hearted fare, such as stories about reality TV programs such as The Bachelor and Keeping Up With The Kardashians. There are some hard news stories — including a few about the Covid pandemic — but these are not as widely engaged with as the celebrity content.
The Twitter list is pretty much the opposite, with the most clicked-on articles being about Covid and the election, and just a few stories about pop culture subjects, including a story about the death of Sean Connery (also one of the top Facebook stories).
This does not mean that people avoid politics on Facebook. Political content is immensely popular on the platform, so much so that Facebook’s effect on political discourse has become the subject of intense scrutiny in recent years. But it may indicate a difference between what people interact with on Facebook and what articles they actually click on and take the time to read.
The other interesting phenomenon is the distribution of engagement. With both platforms, we see that the most popular stories receive disproportionate engagement. This is consistent with the “80/20” rule we’ve seen before: 20% of the content receives 80% of the engagement.
This data underscores the idea that Facebook has more mass appeal, while Twitter is more popular among hard news junkies and amateur political wonks.