Science Shows How To Be Popular On Facebook

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The University of Sydney conducted a study -- the first of its kind -- into how different kinds of posts on Facebook influence how many "likes" you will receive.

Rather than focus on "personalities", the Facebook sites analysed in the study included beyondblue, Movember Foundation, R U OK Day, Cancer Council NSW and Heart Foundation. The aim was to have the findings useful to public health agencies promoting healthy behaviours (diet, smoking, alcohol, drug use, mental and sexual health) -- but I'm sure you can use them to boost your own business, too.

Until now, organisations have had little research-based guidance on how to best engage the two-thirds of Australian adults that have Facebook accounts.

"Our results showed that video posts attracted the greatest amount of user engagement," said University PhD student James Kite who led the study. "However, this finding almost certainly reflects the influence of the Facebook algorithm governing what is shown in user newsfeeds, and which appears to preference videos over other post types."

Ultimately, video posts received on average 25 per cent more likes, nearly four times more shares and twice as many comments as photo posts. Link-based posts received 37 per cent fewer likes and 30 per cent fewer shares, and text-based posts received 31 per cent fewer likes and 69 per cent fewer shares.

The use of "emotional" appeals received on average 18 per cent more likes -- but 27 per cent fewer shares and 10 per cent fewer comments than "call-to-action" appeals. Information-based posts received on average twice as many shares but had no significant impact on likes or comments. Humour-based appeals received twice as many comments but had no significant impact on likes or shares, and fear-based appeals received 72 per cent more comments but had no significant impact on likes or shares.

Posts involving celebrities and sportspeople received on average 62 per cent more likes, more than twice as many shares and 64 per cent more comments than posts without them. Sponsorships and partnerships received on average 41 per cent fewer likes, 58 per cent fewer shares and 50 per cent fewer comments. Competitions, prizes and giveaways received on average four times more comments but 29 per cent fewer likes and 57 per cent fewer shares.

Throwing special characters or mascots in a post meant they received on average more than twice as many comments, but had no significant impact on likes or shares. The use of vouchers, offers and rebates had no significant impact on likes, shares or comments.

"These results are a necessary first step in filling the knowledge gap on the effective use of Facebook by public health organisations," says University of Sydney co-author, Dr Becky Freeman. "By critically examining the characteristics of Facebook posts created by Australian-based public health organisations, we have identified post types and marketing techniques that attract greater or lesser user engagement".

Dr Freeman says the study shows that in order to increase the chances of achieving public health goals, public health agencies using Facebook need to encourage engagement and adapt to the Facebook algorithm to maximise message exposure, while ensuring their content is high quality.

This isn't just relevant to these organisations, however. There's a lesson in this study for anyone who wants to grow their Facebook fanbase (TL;DR: use video, vouchers suck).