From the latest WhiteBoard Friday:
I think Google is honest when they tell us, “We don’t look at social shares to determine rankings.” I think what Google sees is something Chartbeat showed a few years ago. This was another excellent study that I encourage you to check out. Chartbeat basically analyzed engagement on socially shared content. What they saw was a plot that looks like this. Very, very few social articles have high read time. Even the ones that have lots of social sharing have very little read time.
It turns out a ton of things that people share socially on the Web, they don’t read at all. They may click Retweet. They may even include the URL. They might share it on Facebook. But they, themselves, may never have even visited that content. Sounds crazy, but I bet you’ve done it. I bet I’ve done it. I bet I’ve been like well, you know, it was probably a good edition of Whiteboard Friday, I’ll go share it out, having not yet watched the video and seen whether I did a good job or not. That’s just the way of the Web.
I think Google cares much more about the engagement than they do about the social share counts themselves.
Note: Also see the Yahoo! Group on which I present similar issues: IMRo. To join, email email@example.com and reply to the confirmation email.