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Roundup of the Science of Social Media Webinar

If you missed Dan Zarella’s webinar on the Science of Social Media the other day, you can watch it online here.

If you don’t have an hour to spare, you can just read this post, in which I will summarise the important takeaways from the presentation.

Myth: Ideas Spread Because They are Good

Many people think that if you have a good idea it will automatically spread and go viral. In fact there are at lot more factors at play.

Dan has developed Zarella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness, a funnel with Exposure at the top, Attention in the middle, and Motivation at the bottom.

This represents the idea that the most important factor in spreading an idea is Exposure. Next, that idea has to catch your Attention, and finally you need to be Motivated to share that idea.

Increasing Exposure

Myth: Engaging in Conversation Will Help Build Your Reach

  • People with > 1M Twitter followers tend to be less conversational.
  • People with > 1M Twitter followers tend to tweet a lot of links.
  • Blog posts with a high number of comments don’t tend to get more views or links to that post.
  • More Facebook conversation does not tend to mean more views.

So instead of spending a lot of time replying to tweets and comments, and engaging in conversation on Facebook, you should spend more time publishing interesting content.

Use an Avatar

Twitter accounts with a picture on the profile tend to have a lot more followers than those without a picture.

Use Authoritative Words in Your Bio

The following words used in Twitter bio entries, tend to increase the average number of followers:

  • Official (highest number of followers above average)
  • Founder
  • Speaker
  • Expert
  • Guru
  • Author

But be careful not to over-use these words.

Don’t Talk About Yourself Too Much

Accounts with a higher number of self-referential tweets, tend to have a lower number of followers, and get retweeted less.

Be Positive

People who tweet a lot of negative content tend to have fewer followers. Aside from sex, positivity is the most shareable content type. Negativity is the least shareable.

Target Bleeding-Edge Social Media Users

Although they may not be a large part of your audience, they are more likely to share your content. But, you never really know who is going to be in the right place at the right time to spread your content, so the best way to increase the chances of this is to increase your total number of followers.

Attention – Making People Aware of Your Content

The human brain is very selective, only letting through things that are important or relevant to yourself.

Don’t Tweet Links Too Often

If you tweet more than one link per hour, you will crowd out your own content, and each link will get less attention.

Myth: Friday, Saturday and Sunday are Bad Days to Publish

  • Retweet frequency tends to spike on Thursdays and Fridays, as overall Twitter activity slows down.
  • Saturdays and Sundays have a higher email Click-through rate than weekdays.
  • Articles get shared on Facebook a lot more on Weekends.

So experiment with posting at the end of the week and at weekends and see if that increases attention.

Motivation – What Makes People Share Your Content

  • Performance – When you post content to your followers, you are acting in a way that gives off the reputation that you want to have.
  • Reputation – Most people who publish content on the web want to be known as a source of information.
  • Social Exchange – In evolutionary terms, the more value someone thinks they will get from an exchange with you, the more likely they are to interact with you.
  • Knowledge is Power – Specifically, scarce knowledge is power. The more scarce your information is, the more valuable it appears.

Utilise Information Voids

Find out what people want to know about, that is hard to find information on, and post about that.

Tip: Go to search.twitter.com and put in your keyword with a question mark. You will find out what people are looking for around that topic, and you can write about it, and answer their questions.

Novelty is Important

New information = Scarce information. You are more likely to get retweeted if you tweet about things that people don’t know about yet.

Social Proof

As we see people take action, we believe that action is correct. As we see even more people take that action, we believe that action is even more correct. If people see that your article has been shared by many other people, they will see your content as something they can trust. However, that may not make them more likely to share, as they want to be one of the first people to share this novel information.


Articles with lots of verbs and nouns gets shared more than articles with lots of adjectives and adverbs. i.e. Write simply and plainly

Don’t try to sound smart, try to sound understandable and readable.


People tweet things that they think are relevant to their audience. Utilise combined relevance, by combining two seemingly unrelated topics.

Please ReTweet Works

If you add ‘Please ReTweet’ to your tweet, it tends to get retweeted 4 times more than tweets without a call to action. ‘Please ReTweet’ also get 3 times more than ‘Please RT’.

Watch the Webinar

So there you go, those are the main takeaway points from the Science of Social Media webinar. If you want to know more about the studies behind the claims, you can watch the whole presentation and view the slides here.

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