Is It Me or Something I Said? Why People Link to Posts.

We all want to know that when we post something in social media that someone is actually reading it, and hopefully is passing it on to other people.  Business people regularly ask me what do I have to write to get people to respond to my posts.  Honestly it is not easy.  Typically I find people who have their own business and use social media, post information such as their latest blog, or perhaps a link to an article, or they try some other trick such as using a famous name or really clever wording to get people to read.   So what are those factors that affect whether a post will be read or passed along?  It’s a difficult question to answer.  However, I recently read a very clever research article entitled, “The Pulse of News in Social Media: Forecasting Popularity” (Bandari et al., 2012).  The researchers were interested in what makes a news story popular within social media networks.  Based on previous research they narrowed it down to four possible factors:

  • The news source that generates and posts the article
    • Does it make a difference who publishes a news article?
  • The category of news this article falls under
    • Does the category of news article affect its popularity within a social network?
  • The subjectivity of the language in the article
    • Do readers prefer factual statements, or do they favor personal tone and emotionally charged language?
  • Named entities mentioned in the article
    • Does it make a difference whether famous names are mentioned in the article?

So what is the most important factor when it comes to popularity?  Hands down, it is the Source.  Meaning that is more important to be Seth Godin, or Mashable than it is to post about what they have to say.  The research suggests it is all about the brand..  The bigger the brand the more they appear to be trusted.  Right or wrong, agree or disagree, but people psychologically influenced by great branding.

The number 2 factor that effects popularity?  The news category.  There are more people linking to the categories of “news”, “technology”, and “sports”, than they are to “products”, “travel”, and “shopping”.  Let’s dive in to some of the other psychological implications of this study on using social media for your business.

Prescriptions

 

 

  • Who you are is more important that what you know.

    • I know people do not like to hear this, but none the less it is true.  You may be the smartest most talented individual in the world, but if someone has a brand that people know, like and trust, they will follow and listen to the brand even if they are not necessarily produce the “best” product or service..
    • The solution is to really develop your brand.  Social Media is an excellent free place to continue to grow your brand.  However, you must be using it every day in a personal way.  You are not Nike, Dell, Google, or Apple…they do not have to be personal because their brand is that big.  You will have to grow your brand one person at a time and you need to do everyday.
  • What you choose to talk about is more important than how you say it, or who you are talking about.
    • There are just some categories of things people just do not care about.  You may care, but remember if you are using social media for business, then this is NOT ABOUT YOU!  It is about your future clients.  What are they interested in?  Do you know?  Quite honestly they are probably interested in subject areas that are not related to your business, but that’s okay.  You create clients from social media starting with the personal, not the professional.
  • From left to right are the order of topics that received the most linking.

 

  • Know Your Clients Interests and Talk about Them.

    •  While it is true that in the study, technology was a the highest rated category, digging a little deeper it is more than likely because Twitter talks a great deal about technology.  It’s finding those subjects, those categories that your future clients want to discuss, do some research and get some conversations going.
  • It does not matter how creative you are, it is more important to get the information out there.
    • The research is pretty clear.  It does not matter if you are highly emotional when it comes to the  tone of your posts, or you are the Joe Friday, “Just the facts ma’am” poster.  It is more important that you just get posts with the right subject matter out there and develop your brand.
    • It is easy to get so stuck because you are trying to be too clever.  Forget the cleverness.  Just get yourself out there.  It’s pretty clear, this is all about the “who” says it, and not about the “what” is being said, so worry less about how it is being said, and just say it.
  • The most popular articles are not necessarily the most viral.
    • I found this to be one of the most interesting findings of the article.  It appears that the medium level responded to posts have a greater chance at becoming viral.
    • Based on this data, getting something to go viral is about the numbers…if you post enough chances are eventually you may stumble on to something that will take off.
  • Build Your Brand!
    • Alright so let me give you some words of encouragement.  You may not be Reuters or Mashable, but you do have an opportunity to develop and create a worldwide brand unlike any time in our world’s history.  You can start something from nothing, and make it into something enormous…you can be seen, you can be followed, you can be read, and you can go viral.  However, in order to develop any brand you need to be consistent, you need to be relevant, and you need to be consistent.   Yes, I said it twice, because most social media failure that I observe is due to a lack of consistency.
    • Branding is about association.  Association is about consistency.  You will break the association if you are inconsistent.  It will require determination and quite honestly a bit of faith, because you may not see results immediately or even in the short term.  You must stay with what you are doing to build the association between the people and your business, so that your brand is synonymous with your business, and your business is synonymous with you. If anything is clear from this research it may be that when people know you they tend to like you, and when they like you they tend to trust you, and those that trust you become your clients who talk about you and return for more.

Stay Successful!

Jay Izso, Internet Doctor®

Source: Bandari, R., Asur, S., & Huberman, B. (2012) “The Pulse of News in Social Media:  Forecasting Popularity” Accessed June 2012 http://www.hpl.hp.com/research/scl/papers/newsprediction/pulse.

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