Study: Controversial Social Media Buzz is Fake, Unengaged

As the Digital Editor for, I spend a lot of time monitoring the Internet. Each day, a cacophony of alerts about media trends, food trends, ingredient trends, etc. fill my inbox. It's enough to make my head spin.

We recently posted a few articles on about California's Proposition 37. You can see find them at: Proposition 37: Food Transparency or Increased Organic Food Sales? and Proposition 37: California's Newest Challenge For Food Product Companies. Our stats and comments really hit home how high-conflict of a topic this is.

Controversial topics aren't new to us. We're a news site – we're going to publish content that not everyone agrees with. In fact, our 'processed' name even inspires a negative tweet every once in a while.  Thankfully, we've got pretty thick skin.

As social media — and the anonymity that goes with it — becomes more prevalent as a way to distribute content, figuring out how to separate the news from the hype will become that much more important. It seemed apropos, then, that news of a recent study from KDPaine & Partners fell into my inbox.

KDPaine & Partners, a brand and public relations consulting firm, recently concluded a study that found that when it comes to the social media buzz around controversial topics 64% of posts were from "individuals who posted only once or twice on the topic, with little conversation or discussion." The study also found 6% of posts were from "very frequent posters,  that are usually bots and pay-per-clickers who post about popular topics in order to drive traffic to their sites. Many of them are purveyors of alternative solutions or competing products."

This research comes at a time when topics like GMOs and high fructose corn syrup become targets for public vitriol. You can barely log on to sites like Facebook, YouTube or Twitter anymore without seeing negative press about these topics.  

A few results, which can be found on KDPaine & Partners' blog, stress the importance of taking controversial commentary with a grain of salt… but I'm sure even that would be up for public debate.

Erin Erickson is the digital editor of Email her at or check out her .