The old journalist saying goes, “if it bleeds, it leads.” It’s true that doom and gloom stories get clicks on your home page but new data shows these stories perform poorly on social media.
Recently, a team of scientists at the University of Vermont set out to test this hypothesis. Their research study “Human Language Reveals a Universal Positivity Bias,” confirms the 1969 Pollyanna Hypothesis that there is a universal human tendency to “look on and talk about the bright side of life.”
The researchers analyzed one hundred billion words in Tweets, as well as pulled billions of words from news outlets, websites, television, movie subtitles, and music lyrics. The evidence overwhelming pointed towards a tendency of human language to favor positive emotions.
“We looked at ten languages,” says mathematician Peter Dodds who co-led the research, “in every source we looked at, people use more positive words than negative ones.”
Edelman’s study “2013: A World Turned Inside Out” found a similar trend. According to their research, the design of social currency is “very different to traditional media formats.” In order for audiences to share content, stories need to be “weighted towards positive and uplifting news stories and gossip.”
“The design of social currency is very different to traditional media formats. They need to be weighted towards positive and uplifting new stories and gossip. Due to reciprocity, people want to share this with friends and family. They will be very cautious about not wanting to be seen as overly negative and relate what and how they share to their own ‘personal’ brand.”
In other words, we might click on negative stories or read about horrific crime in private but will be cautious about sharing those types of content with our friends and peers.
While of course news stations must report the news, it’s good to also look for positive stories as these typically perform the best in social media.
If you want your social content to travel further and bring more viewers and listeners to your properties, focus on creating and sharing positive content.
How a national radio station increased the reach of their social content One of our clients, a national radio station, had built a large social media audience, but they wanted to increase the global reach of their social media content.
Working with experts from Facebook, they began to analyze data through Facebook Insights’ reports to help understand what content made the biggest impact on their audience.
They discovered that music-related content with a broad, universal appeal—such as news, videos, new songs—received the most clicks. They now focus on sharing this type of content, which helped them reach their goal of adding 300,000 new Facebook Page followers in two months.
Since investing in strategies to improve sharing and digital distribution of their content, they’ve seen a significant increase in radio station listeners and traffic to their website and web properties, such as their live streaming station.