Social media has been a very powerful force in modern society. This is often explain using long discussions about demographics and technology. However, it boils down to the simple fact that social media makes it easier for people to get news.

At first, it was news about our friends and family. Increasingly, we're using social media to get news about "the news". Recent surveys from Pew Research Center have shown that more consumers are getting their news from social media. However, the increased access to news comes at a price. Consumers are less trusting of the news they get through social media platforms.

According to recent research from the Pew Research Center, 62 percent of US adults are getting their news on social media. The research, based on a surveys from more than 4,500 people found that Reddit was the most popular platform for news, with 70 percent of reedit users accessing news from the social sharing network. Facebook took second place with two out of three users (66 percent) getting news on the social network.

You may think that it would be difficult to spread news through Twitter, given the 140-character limit, the study found people turn to Twitter in about equal amounts. Three out of five (59 percent) Twitter users reported finding the news on the microblogging platform.

The other social networks were also examined by the study but they were far behind the top three. A third of Tumblr users (31 percent) and nearly a quarter of Instagram (23 percent) reported getting news from social media. The latter is surprising since Instagram doesn't allow hyperlinks in their posts.

About a fifth of YouTube (21 percent) and LinkedIn (19 percent) users were finding their news online. And at the bottom of the rankings were Snapchat at 17 percent and Vine at 14 percent.

At first glance, YouTube may have a lower percentage, but the percentages are misleading. Twitter and YouTube are equivalent in their overall exposure. YouTube reaches about 48 percent of US adults, but only about 21 percent of users get news there. Whereas Twitter reaches 16 percent of US adults, but 59 percent of users are actually getting the news. Through the magic of math, this translates to an almost equal number of US adults.

The researchers noted that the social media platform used correlates to whether the person was actively or passively seeking news.

"Differences also emerge in how active or passive each group of news users is in their online news habits more generally," the researchers explained. "YouTube, Facebook and Instagram news users are more likely to get their news online mostly by chance, when they are online doing other things."

This may seem like great news for social media networks and content creators, but another study shows the real effects are nuanced. Though more people are getting their news from social media networks, people may have less confidence in the news they receive in such a way.

Though three out of five Americans get their news through content they find on social media, only 4 percent say they trust that news in the social space is legitimate.

"Even as three-quarters of the public gives credit to news organizations for holding our leaders accountable, about the same share (74%) feels the news media favor one side in their reporting," writes the researchers. "That far outpaces the portion of online news consumers who sense this about online news they get from friends and family: In that case, just about a third (35%) describe it as mostly one-sided, while 31% say it represents more than one side. Another third say they don't get news from friends and family."

This information is useful for content producers and news agencies. It proves that social media can be used to improve the reach of content and to make up the audiences that media companies are losing from traditional methods.

For more news about using social media for marketing, read this article on changes Facebook has made to the News Feed that will affect Business Pages.

Published on: Jul 18, 2016
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