How to make (Facebook) friends and influence people!
over 500 million members, Facebook has a huge amount of data at its
fingertips. And we are not just talking about basic stats like age,
gender, and location. Everyone from marketers to anthropologists would
love to get their hands on Facebook’s treasure trove of “Likes”, links,
and friend profiles.
Although many would argue that Facebook
shares too much information with advertisers, it has so far been fairly
stingy when it comes to releasing data to social scientists or other
study groups. Instead, it has started to analyze a lot of that
information itself. Just a couple of weeks ago we reported on a Facebook
intern’s “friendship map”, and now the Facebook Data Team has published the results of a study that examines the word usage in approximately one million status updates.
updates, which were all from English-speaking U.S. members, were
examined using a text analysis software program called Linguistic
Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC). This program allows researchers to
determine the rate at which authors or speakers express emotion (both
positive and negative), refer to themselves or other people, or mention
various topics, like sex, sport, religion, etc. In all, there are 68
different word categories, and analyzing the frequency of these words in
Facebook status updates could reveal some interesting insights into how
different people use the social networking platform.
Some of the
findings provided little surprise. For example, younger people express
more negative emotions and tend to swear more. They use more
self-references (“I”, “me”, “my”, etc.) and talk more about school.
Older people write longer updates, use more prepositions and articles,
and talk more about other people.
It should also be no surprise to
find that people tend to write about different topics at different
times of the day. For example, words about sleep increase at night and
peak in the early hours of the morning. Work or school words peak in the
mornings, while words about social and leisure activities are higher
later in the day. Positive emotional word use is also higher in the
morning, with negative word use increasing as the day goes on
Facebook study found some distinct differences in the word usage of more
“popular” Facebook members – as measured by their friend counts –
compared to the words used by less popular members. People with higher
friend counts tend to use the pronoun “you” more often, write longer
updates, and use more words referring to music and sports. They also
talk less about their families and are less emotional.
surprisingly, updates with more positive emotional words receive more
“Likes” than those with more negative emotional words. However, more
negative emotional updates receive more comments, leading the Facebook
Data Team to speculate that there might be a sympathy factor at work
here. The study also found that there was a clear correlation between
how much a member uses certain words in his or her status updates and
how much those same words are used by that person’s friends.
Facebook Data Team doesn’t draw any conclusions from the study, but if
you are looking to add more Facebook friends the implications are clear:
write longer posts, don’t write too much about yourself or your family,
include references to music and sports, don’t be too emotional, and
keep your updates upbeat!