Shareaholic Becomes the Link-Sharing Tool of Choice—And Builds a Vast Database on Social Media Behavior

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helps other companies understand and predict consumers’ behavior online. And as it turns out, every time a Shareaholic user activates the tool, Meattle collects a few bits of (anonymous) data about what Web content people think is worth sharing, where it came from, and where it was shared to. At a million sharing actions per month, that data is piling up quickly—and it’s just begging to be monetized.

“At Compete, it took us millions of dollars to get to this point, and here we’ve already built a huge data set” on a bootstrapped budget, Meattle says. (Shareaholic is just raising its first round of angel funding now.) “It was a happy accident,” he says. “We didn’t do this to get the data.” But now that the company has it, it could do any number of things with it.

Meattle predicts, for example, that the new field of “social media optimization”—services that help publishers and advertisers make the best use of social media tools like Twitter and Facebook—has the potential to become just as big and important as search engine optimization and search engine marketing. (In that sense, Shareaholic joins a growing cluster of firms in the Boston area that specialize in new forms of online marketing, including Hubspot and Crimson Hexagon.) Getting an inside look at Shareaholic’s data about what content is being shared most often, on what platforms, would be any social media marketer’s dream.

Up to now, Meattle says he has focused on making Shareaholic powerful yet easy to use. The next six months, he says, will be spent experimenting with various business models. “It could be any of five different things,” he says. “But it comes back to the philosophy that if you build a good product, and keep your users number one, good things are going to happen.”

Shareaholic does have some competition. There’s ShareThis, social bookmarking tool used by many online publications, including Xconomy. (See the little green “Share” icon at the bottom of this story). And as Greg wrote a couple of weeks ago, a Bellevue, WA, startup called Sharein.com is entering the same territory. But as far as I can tell, Shareaholic offers connections to far more sharing services than any of the competing tools.

If it has a drawback, it’s that it’s a bit impersonal, and only works as well as the services that it connects you to. If you want to tweet about something using the tool, for example, it connects you to TwitThat, which automatically formats the headline of the article you’re reading and shortens the URL, but doesn’t let you add commentary. When I tweet, I like to give my followers a bit of insight beyond what’s in a headline, so for important stuff I’ll probably keep tweeting manually using Tweetdeck.

But Shareaholic is so convenient that I’ve already gotten rid of the row of separate browser bookmarklets that I used to use to connect to Tumblr, Evernote, and the like. In fact, it’s so much fun using the tool that I now have to remind myself, once in a while, to stop spreading the news and go write something worth sharing.

I’m on vacation next week—World Wide Wade will return on August 14. For a full list of my columns, check out the World Wide Wade Archive. You can also subscribe to the column via RSS or e-mail.

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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