These days, sharing isn’t just caring–it’s ensuring virality, especially on Facebook. And Dan Zarrella, the Hubspot viral-marketing scientist who gave us nine proven ways to get retweeted on Twitter, knows exactly how to encourage it.
For several weeks, he compiled roughly 12,000 articles posted to Facebook, most from big-name sites such as Mashable and CNN. Then, he found the average number of times each was “shared”–meaning it was commented on, liked, or directed to a friend–and analyzed the make-ups of the winners and losers.
Although Zarrella freely admits that that correlation does not necessarily imply causation, he’s also adamant that, in this case, “it’s certainly a hint.” And after poring over his findings, which he sent to FastCompany.com exclusively, I’d definitely agree. Below, a look at Zarrella’s seven most effective ways to get shared on Facebook:
1. Talk about sex.
Hello, one-track mind! Articles about sex were almost three times more likely to go viral than articles dealing with other subjects, such as self-reference and work. “Leisurely” stories, however, seems to turn people off. “It’s a catch-all category that includes sleep and [completed] sports games,” Zarrella explains. “People would rather focus their energy on something active and constructive.”
2. Solve a news mystery.
Aside from (duh) “Facebook,” the most Facebook-friendly word is “why”–followed closely by “how”–which suggests that people are more likely to share content that legitimately explains something. Also of note: It helps to include superlatives such as “most” and “best,” which Zarrella says usually modify lists.
3. Don’t harp on Twitter. Or Google. Or iPhones.
Although the “vs” bit strikes both myself and Zarrella as odd–don’t people love controversy?–there are some gems in this chart. Whereas Google, iPhone, and Twitter are retweet-magnets on Twitter, they’re largely ignored on Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild. “Those are things that social media dorks talk about,” Zarrella explains. “Facebook serves a more mainstream audience.”
4. Keep it short and sweet.
Score one for Strunk and White: Articles with lots of adjectives and adverbs were shared far less than those with active, descriptive sentences. “In other words,” says Zarrella, “don’t go overboard with flowery language.”
5. Drop some digits.
“People like data and specifics,” says Zarrella. Case in point: Articles with digits in their titles–lists and otherwise–tended to be shared more than those without.
6. Add visual aids.
No surprise here: Multimedia components encourage sharing. And Facebook, which lets users embed songs and videos, is far better for sharing them than Twitter, whose platform is text-only.
7. Post on weekends.
Given that more than half of U.S. employers block Facebook at work, it makes sense that the social network is hopping on weekends. But also, because there’s generally less going on, “each individual story gets more attention,” Zarrella explains.
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