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7 Scientific Ways to Promote Sharing on Facebook

Leonardo Da Vinci once wrote, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Kelly Johnson modernized that philosophy with an alternate twist, KISS, Keep it Simple, Stupid a.k.a. Keep it Short and Simple.

In a social economy where attention is a precious commodity, the ability to strip a social object down to its essence to capture attention has less to do with compacting character counts and more to do with the art and science of packaging and presenting content so that it is immediately compelling, simple to grasp and appreciate and in turn, share across social graphs.

For participants in the socialization of media, an ever-thinning attention span is forcing the rapid evolution of our ability to multitask – albeit at shallow depths.  Cognition is thereby stimulated by relevance, simplicity, and in social networks, the objects and content screened and shared by peers.

In Twitter, we learned that there is indeed an art to ReTweets and to increase the likelihood for tweets to spread, the words and times we choose dictate their lifespan and ultimately, fate. To examine social objects and how they affect sharing in Facebook, I once again reached out to my friend and social scientist, Dan Zarrella.

Zarrella studied Facebook data for quite some time and observed that simplicity, among other interesting linguistic and timed attributes, is the key to triggering word of mouth.

Readability’s Effects on Sharing in Facebook

With a view from the top, we can see that Facebook sharing is enhanced by simple language and thus modernizes the old adage KISS to now represent Keep it Simple and “Shareable.”

In his research, Zarrella examined article titles and matched the propensity for sharing with reading grade levels. The results were revealing to say the least. Essentially, the higher the share rates, the lower the reading grade level, with notable spikes resonating at fifth and ninth grades.

Numerical Value

For those looking to capitalize on propagating your content in Facebook, although the same could be true in other online mediums, consider the addition of digits to your titles.

Yes, there’s a reason why we as content consumers, are duped into reading and distributing social objects with numerical digits in the headline. For example, the title of this article is intentional “7 Scientific Ways to Promote Sharing on Facebook.”  Social science now shows that there’s a reason why articles with similar titles consistently perform well.

In Facebook, titles with digits (1-9) outperform text only titles. As much as I’d like to see more originality in and creativity in the school of compelling headline writing, the numbers add up to make a strong case for considering alternatives.

Carpe Diem

Similar to Twitter, there are days and times where we as content consumers transform into curators by sharing relevant content objects.

Whereas on Twitter, RT’s occur most often on Monday and Friday, Facebook users seem most likely to share on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s important to note here that while sharing is notably higher on the weekend, the volume of URLs introduced into Facebook are higher during weekdays, most notably Wednesdays and Fridays.  However, as Zarrella observed, stories published on the weekends tended to be shared on Facebook on average, more than those published during the week. This could be due in part to the fact that more than half of businesses in the U.S. block Facebook and other social networks in the workplace. But then again, if this were true, the science of retweets would also prove otherwise.

Personally, I’ve experimented with this over the last couple of years. Indeed, content introduced on Twitter, tends to spark greater reactions during the week, with Monday and Wednesday and Friday in particular. However, when I withhold the same object and introduce it to my social graph in Facebook on Saturday morning, responses are far more notable.

What Are Words For, When No One Listens Anymore

The act of sharing implies so much more than curation. When we “Like” or share content in Facebook, we are essentially endorsing it and as such, recommending it to friends and followers to act and react.

The words we intentionally or unintentionally surround the objects we share result in either relevance or irrelevance.

While current events play a role defining the most shareable content, truly, experiential words such as “why,” “most,” “world,” and “how” trigger the greatest volume of shares in aggregate. However, when viewing the activity of words in isolation of sharing events, “you” and “video” prove extremely noteworthy.

When words aren’t working for you, they’re working against you. As documented, certain words serve as inhibitors to sharing, closing the attention aperture before content has an opportunity to breathe. According to Zarrella’s research, the least shareable words include expressions I would not have otherwise guessed, including “review,” “poll,” and “social.” Among the least shareable words however, the following terms are introduced with greater frequency, however do not engender the desired outcome, “time,” “Twitter,” and “live.”

Action Speaks Louder Than Words

Part-of-speech also lends to the shareability of social object. Much like Tweets or any other update in the “statusphere,” brevity serves as a framework for what we introduce into the stream.

Seems that we have proof that actions speak louder than words, or at the very least, verbs as action words appear to motivate sharing with important nouns following in second. As to be expected, there are a greater number of nouns introduced into updates, however, it is verbs that imply action and therefore the right verbs compel us to share. Adjectives and adverbs appear to be among the least shared parts-of-speech in Facebook as our attention spans are trained to look beyond promotion or hyperbole.

The Glass is Half Full

The effect of linguistic content and the tone of updates and objects introduced in Facebook say everything about you. At the same time, determine whether someone reads, ignores, and more importantly, shares what they encounter.

Negative updates are among the least shared objects with positive sentiment and words sitting on the opposite end, prove to be among the most shared. It’s interesting to note that a greater number of negative updates are introduced into NewsFeeds than those that are positive. I suppose it’s to be expected, but sex is at the very top of the list and also among the least often introduced into social feeds. I’m also pleasantly surprised and encouraged to see learning, media, work and constructive in the company of shareable linguistic performers.

There are times where the content we introduce into the activity feeds of those in our social graph is intended to inspire sharing across the graphs of friends and friends of friends. Consider the science and then craft the update to employ it to your benefit – and hopefully the benefit of others.

Antione de Saint Exupéry observed, “Perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Connect with Brian Solis on Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google Buzz, Facebook

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267 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “7 Scientific Ways to Promote Sharing on Facebook”

  1. annaconda1 says:

    fabulous, thank you very much! I try to bring positivity, enthusiasm and fun with everything I put out – good to see that science supports positivity – second only to sex! @annaconda1

  2. Really interesting article, Brian. I'm (positively) impressed about the “linguistic content” sharing. It's amazing to see learning, work, etc, so high.
    It's because I barely remember a ratio about Negative Experience word-of-mouth vs Positive Experience wom. But this graph shows us that is happening the opposite in Facebook.
    Thanks for bring it to the table, Brian!

  3. Mike Stenger says:

    I've followed Dan's work for a while so thanks for aggregating these all in one post Brian. Some really good stats and info to consider when using Facebook I'd say!

  4. Jamie Gorman says:

    3 Reasons I really like this post. It's based on data and not just another opinion. Well written, although I hesitate to share because it is clearly above a 9th grade level:-) I finally understand why I get post after post of 5 of this, 7 of that and 3 of the other thing. By the way, is there any data to back up using odd numbers instead of even?
    Great post, thanks Brian

  5. swahiliat5th says:

    Very informative post. Was having a hard time getting interest on my posts on Facebook; but after reading this post, it gives me a fresh, new perspective on how to approach it. Many thanks.

  6. With Facebook steadily growing, it's so important to know how to take full advantage of the possibilities it presents. Thanks for this post. The data is very informative and immediately provokes thoughts on how we can better use Facebook.

  7. Dina Meek says:

    Thanks for a great post Brian! My theory about why Twitter shares high on weekdays and FB on weekends is that, at least in my experience, Twitter is much more of a business tool while Facebook is personal.

    • briansolis says:

      Dina, interesting. I suppose it's in the way that you use it. I find that FB serves a great balance of personal and professional. Cheers!

  8. sue_anne says:

    Thanks for another great post Brian.

    The reading level data doesn't surprise me much. Journalists have known that for ages. When I was studying journalism, I was always taught never to write about a 7th grade reading level. Even if you're writing for people that could read above that level, it makes the writing easier to read.

    I found it interesting that “tv” and “live” were actually on the negative list. It would be interesting to look at that data compared with the data from the Twitter in America research done by Edison. Especially regarding how popular talking about live TV is on Twitter.

  9. Elaine says:

    Very interesting post – thanks! 🙂

  10. Writing for the lowest common common denominator makes sense as you are hitting a wider audience. 1-10 lists (albeit very popular) but are stifling the creativity in social media (I feel) at the moment. I would be interested to learn more behind the psychology of text and how verbs (and what kind) motivate people to share more. Would be interesting to look at demographics and male / female reactions in the context of your blog.

  11. Glenn Raines says:

    Real interesting Brian, especially what seems now to be our “conditioned filtering” of the hyperbole culprits (adverbs, adjectives). Twitter has certainly fine tuned the art of pithy — concise content structures that translate well to Facebook shareability so our over multi-tasked brains can decode efficiently.

  12. Glenn Raines says:

    Real interesting Brian, especially what seems now to be our “conditioned filtering” of the hyperbole culprits (adverbs, adjectives). Twitter has certainly fine tuned the art of pithy — concise content structures that translate well to Facebook shareability so our over multi-tasked brains can decode efficiently.

  13. susanbeebe says:

    Great stuff… interesting stats and graphs. Always good to remember what works and what doesn't 😉

    Social media is wiring our brains for premium content. Accordingly, content publishers must be aware of not only how to push out content but also measure – just as you've done here…nice!

    Thanks!
    @SusanBeebe

  14. SeanMalarkey says:

    Brian – great breakdown here.

    I have found that when I write posts that are specific to Facebook or Twitter they ARE more likely to be shared on those mediums. Also when including a digit I have noticed much higher sharing. I think it's easily explained – a post with a number in it, usually means the author did some research, and the user feels more comfortable sharing the content.

    The days of the week stats are interesting as well. I am noticing lately that Twitter traffic has increased drastically on Saturday and Sunday. I have found that I am getting 2-3 times as much traffic when I post a link to my site on the weekend on Twitter. For whatever reasons Sunday mid afternoon have been huge lately. Are you seeing this as well?

    Sean

  15. SeanMalarkey says:

    Brian – great breakdown here.

    I have found that when I write posts that are specific to Facebook or Twitter they ARE more likely to be shared on those mediums. Also when including a digit I have noticed much higher sharing. I think it's easily explained – a post with a number in it, usually means the author did some research, and the user feels more comfortable sharing the content.

    The days of the week stats are interesting as well. I am noticing lately that Twitter traffic has increased drastically on Saturday and Sunday. I have found that I am getting 2-3 times as much traffic when I post a link to my site on the weekend on Twitter. For whatever reasons Sunday mid afternoon have been huge lately. Are you seeing this as well?

    Sean

  16. Mack says:

    Thats inverse as we have noted…..Due to weekend traffic on these days are less as compared to working days, however i am not regular blogger but i do write on SEO Niche…May be our Subject difference is the reason of reverse traffic in both cases

  17. Great article. I'd be curious to know if anyone's researched more thoroughly their facebook and twitter traffic by day of the week AND by browser, etc – I'm curious how much weekend traffic can be attributed to the ease of new mobile apps, ipad, etc. Lots to think about!

    • Yes, I was wondering the same thing. Companies can monitor if employees are on Facebook on company computers but could the higher Twitter RT traffic on week days be due to the fact that employees are tweeting from their own personal phones? Enjoyed this post, Brian.

  18. Great post Brian,

    I hadn't really thought about specific examples like this, but it's definitely got
    heaps of value in it. I guess a lot of it is also down to the relationship you have with your audience and how relevant your piece of content is for them but it's definitely a great general overview of what works best.

    Thanks again Brian!
    The Musician's Guide

  19. adelaide dj says:

    wow, some awesome insights, great post!

  20. Great collection! I appreciate your work! While these are true with all the records provided! In my observations I had found that a facebook update with an attached interesting image that conveys the entire message will also generate more spread on the network!

  21. Some of this stuff is basic copy writing know-how. There are a few nuggets of truth as well. The timing stats are interesting but not surprising. The linguistic stuff is cool but probably skewed by a lot of bored teenagers.

    Facebook should prove a fertile field for social science.

  22. Charmaine says:

    In fact, it does cross my mind about the ways to promote my sites and I use different ways each time. I do observed the trend and I am still studying and comparing the trend on a daily basis. Thanks for sharing. It makes my work much easier.

  23. Jack says:

    Hi Brian
    These are really scientific ways.You have described such a great stuff.This is very informative and interesting also.
    The post is really appreciatable.Thanks and keep it up…!!!

  24. Teena says:

    Great stuff, thanks for providing those data that really supports your writing.

  25. Nadja Specht says:

    Great article Brian! That's exactly the type of information we need.
    I would be interested in seeing how this breakdown varies by industry, demographics, B2B vs B2C etc. We are currently lacking scientific frameworks of that type. However that's what is needed to move social media along on the maturity curve.

  26. dougmcisaac says:

    Thanks for sharing this data it mirrors some of my own information.

    Doug

  27. Abha says:

    Interesting read and tips on 'how to' about facebook.Thanks

    http://www.mypopkorn.com/blogs/abha-banerjee/pr

  28. Greg Osuri says:

    Hi Brian,

    Thanks for the excellent data. We also discovered if you sync your twitter and facebook, the links come plain and dumb on your page.

    Presenting links on facebook with a preview increases the likely hood of being clicked on. To solve this problem we created a tool called sociaholic (http://sociaholic.com) which does exactly that.

  29. davidemillombard says:

    Tremendous value Brian..thanks!

  30. Victorio_M says:

    Thanks for sharing this detailed information. I wonder how the figures change (or not) when applying it to specific niche groups on Facebook.

    There's a lot to take away from this article so I'll have to come back!

  31. Techwatch says:

    surprised at the popular days of the week , I thought everyone did this at work

  32. SEO Online says:

    Amazing study, thanks!

  33. Jack says:

    This is really nice to share your experiences and views.
    Excellent collection of data.It is very useful information for the beginners..
    keep it up!!

  34. Yeah, it's hard. It takes a great network or something very valuable that can go viral before the sharing on facebook has a huge impact. I think videos are probably what show up on my time line the most right now.

  35. its cool Brian thanks for this great tactics for things viral on Facebook 🙂

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