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Summary:

From the early days of “share this with a friend” buttons, to the more sophisticated sharing widgets like Tweetmeme, AddThis and ShareThis, publishers are more empowered than ever to provide site visitors with the power to be part of the syndication process.

I don’t think there’s much of a downside to giving your readers tools at their fingertips to easily share your content with their contacts. From the early days of “share this with a friend” buttons, to the more sophisticated sharing widgets like Tweetmeme, AddThis and ShareThis, publishers are more empowered than ever to provide site visitors with the power to be part of the syndication process. Plus, these applications provide various degrees of measurement to help any publisher quantify the actions taken with their content.

This week, ShareThis announced a shift from being a utility to becoming a “smarter app,” with better analytics and incorporating a real-time stream of data of related content from a reader’s own friends and contacts (the ShareThis Stream). Basically, readers of sites using ShareThis are now able to see what their connections are also sharing.

When Is Sharing “Oversharing?”

From a user standpoint, I think there are pros and cons to seeing a real-time stream of what my connections — or other ShareThis users — are sharing. I’m a huge fan of the human filter and even follow certain Twitter users solely because I know they spend a lot of time scanning blogs and regularly post content that interests me.

But I’m a little on the fence about a sharing tool that lets me send out links to what I’m reading giving me back information about what other people are sharing. Because while they may be my friends or contacts, I’m not sure all of them will be sharing anything interesting or useful to me. And frankly, I’m not sure I need another channel where I can be social around the things my contacts and I read — I’ve got Twitter for that.

From a publisher’s standpoint, however, it’s an interesting proposition. After your site visitor shares some of your content, they not only get a “successfully shared” message, they also see additional related content you’ve published so they can read or share more. They can then view what everyone else who has shared content from your site is sharing, which strikes me as similar to “what are the most shared stories” links on other sites which I’ve always found valuable or at least interesting. And they can also opt to see what their ShareThis-using friends are also sharing.

Measuring More With ShareThis

ShareThis has also upped the ante on measurement. You can track how your content fares across numerous networks, starting with Facebook and Twitter, with Google Buzz, MySpace and LinkedIn pending. ShareThis claims to measure more than most other social analytics tools, which generally just measure when your content is shared and the the number of clicks it receives.

ShareThis also measures audience engagement with your content and the spread of that content. ShareThis calls these metrics “Influence Analytics” so you not only see how your content is shared, but where, and you can measure what it calls your “socially-referred traffic and engagement.” It even goes a step further, breaking down your audience into “Influencers,” “Affecteds,” and “Potentials.”

Because just publishing content is no longer enough, finding ways to facilitate and measure the new social landscape is potentially valuable. But it remains to be seen how well the tools work and what real value they bring to the table. I’m looking forward to finding out.

How are you measuring the paths your content takes and the influence of your audience?

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Report: The Real-Time Enterprise

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