USA Today's For the Win goes beyond social for sharing

fwt sms button
For The Win (FTW) found it more effective to drop the Twitter share button from its mobile stories in favor of an Just about SMS share button.

Almost any social media 101 blog post will tell you that in order to go “viral,” your content needs to resonate with the masses on Twitter.

But USA Today sports blog For The Win has found that its mobile readers don’t share much through Twitter, according to Chris Pirrone, general manager of USA Today’s digital sports properties. It’s actually so negligible that FTW, which is solely focused on social media distribution, dropped Twitter sharing buttons from its mobile stories in late 2014 in favor of SMS-sharing buttons.

The early results have been staggering: the SMS button has been used three to four more times more often than the Twitter button ever was, according to FTW’s editorial director Jamie Mottram.

“It’s not that Twitter is insignificant for us, it’s just that mobile users weren’t really using the tweet-to-share buttons, so we took them away,” Mottram said. “It was an experiment at first, but share rates went up, so we stuck with it.”

There are differences between the two, or course. Texting is designed to share a story to a limited, specific number of people, whereas tweeting a link blasts it out to all of a person’s followers and includes the potential of being retweeted to countless others.

FTW is essentially doubling down on its long held belief that messaging apps will be the primary mobile sharing platform that is not Facebook. It introduced a WhatsApp sharing button to its mobile stories last May. BuzzFeed has experimented with a WhatsApp sharing button, as well, as have music app Shazam and photo editing app Aviary.

Now, three of FTW’s four sharing buttons — email, SMS and WhatsApp — are message-based (the final button being Facebook). Facebook and email remain the first and second most-used sharing tools on FTW stories, respectively, Mottram said. Facebook is the single most popular sharing button on FTW’s mobile stories, but message sharing — aggregated across the site’s email, SMS and WhatsApp buttons — now accounts for a majority of FTW’s mobile shares.

FTW decided to keep the Twitter sharing button on for desktop, where texting is not an option.

The Twitter button remains on FTW's desktop stories.
The Twitter button remains on FTW’s desktop stories.