Sex sells… and gets retweeted

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I’m a big fan of data.  Give me cold, hard numbers (not the lies, but the damn lies and statistics are fine) before you ask me to make any decision of importance.  For 86 years the Red Sox employed a gritty, old, I-feel-it-in-my-bones mentality when deciding on the night’s line up.  Enter Theo Epstein and Sabermetrics, and you end up with two World Series Championships in the past decade.

There is now good data on how to get your tweets retweeted and your Facebook content shared more widely.  One takeaway that should surprise no one but always does: use sex.  Sex has long been known to marketers as an effective sales tool, and now social media metrics are showing that sex-related Facebook posts are by far the most likely to be shared by others.

Several months ago there was a popular Facebook meme where women everywhere were posting the color of their bra as their status.  The cryptic one-word posts were ostensibly designed to raise awareness about breast cancer, but  I think it was just a way to confuse men.  After all, the instructions specifically told women not to tell us guys what was going on – but for whatever reasons it was done, it went viral quickly.

As anyone who has ever stood in a supermarket checkout line can tell you, using numbers in your headline may also drive up traffic and the number of times an article gets shared.  There’s a reason every month magazines have scantily clad women on the cover with headlines like “Seven ways to drive your man wild.”

Sex might work for clothes and beer, and even for internet domain registration, but for some brands it just won’t be a fit.  Fortunately, there are other strategies that are almost as effective.  In a win for optimists everywhere, posts that express positive sentiments are much more likely to get shared than negative ones.

Less sanguinely, the use of polysyllabic language is inversely proportional to the number of times your content will get shared on Facebook.  In other words, the more you write like a second grader, the more likely someone else will pass along your content to their network.  With few exceptions, the higher the grade level required to understand the headline, the less likely it is to get shared.  By the time a headline rises to a college junior’s comprehension level, it is 20% less likely than the average link to get shared.

There are plenty of gimmicks out there to game the system, but without compelling content your message isn’t going anywhere.  To really stand out, use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, your own website, and even internal communications to bring something new to the table.  If what you are putting out there doesn’t add value to someone’s day they are not going to pass it on, no matter how clever the headline is.

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One Response to “Sex sells… and gets retweeted”

  1. Message in a megabyte; lost in a sea of social networking « EZG Blog Says:

    […] EZG Blog Ruminations on advertising, public relations and media strategies. « Sex sells… and gets retweeted […]

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