Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
June 16, 2010

Get Your Share on Facebook

Three Scientific Ways to Get Your Fans to Spread the Word

Dan Zarrella does it again.

The social and viral marketing scientist who brought you the science of retweets has turned his attention to what makes blog postings and articles go viral on Facebook.

Here’s what he’s learned:

  1. Keep it simple.

The lower the reading grade level of the article headline, the more likely it is to get shared on Facebook, Zarrella’s research shows. For instance, headlines written at the:

  • Fifth-grade level got shared 15 percent more often than average.
  • Ninth-grade level got shared 10 percent more often than average.
  • 15th-grade level got shared nearly 20 percent less often than average.

2.    Numbers count.

Publication headlines with numbers sell stories. That’s because they promise quantity and value. (Oddly, odd numbers sell better than even ones.)

The same thing’s true in social media. Add a numeral to the headline for your blog posting, and it will make the rounds more widely on Facebook.

“In a wide range of marketing arenas, digits have been shown to perform very well,” Zarrella writes. “They tend to help conversion rates in the form of prices. And on social news sites like Digg, ‘Top 10’ style posts have always done well.”

In Zarrella’s research, blog posting and article headlines:

  • Including the numerals 1 through 9 got passed along 1.25 percent more often than average.
  • Without digits got shared nearly 0.75 percent less often than average.

3.    Publish on the weekend.

People post fewer articles on Facebook on the weekend. But the stories that do get posted on Saturday and Sunday get shared more often, on average, than those that get posted during the week.


One reason is that more than half of U.S. companies block Facebook, so people can only use the social network at home, Zarrella says. Also, the mainstream Facebook audience doesn’t use Facebook for work.

Zarrella found that pieces posted on:

  • Saturday get passed along nearly 40 percent more often than average.
  • Sunday get shared more than 15 percent more often than average.
  • Weekdays get shared about as often as or a little less often than average.

“If you want your article to be shared on Facebook,” Zarrella says, “try posting it on the weekend.”

Check out Zarrella’s Facebook-sharing research methodology.

Write for Social Media

Would you like to learn how to write blog postings, tweets and other status updates that expand your reach and influence online?

If so, please join me at PRSA’s June 18 webinar, “Writing for Social Media: How to Write Blog Postings, Tweets and Other Status Updates That Expand Your Reach and Influence Online.”

Social media is more like a cocktail party than a press release. Write status updates that sound like they were produced by a corporation — or even a public relations pro — and you’ll soon find yourself socializing with the chips, not attracting new friends and followers. In this session, you’ll discover how to make your social media pieces more relevant, valuable and interesting to your readers.

Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

  • Use the 70-20-10 rule for engaging your followers, plus other tips for making sure your status updates are welcome guests, not intrusive pests.
  • Pass the “who cares?” test and four other techniques for becoming a resource, not a bore, on social media.
  • Get retweeted. Five steps for expanding your influence and reach on Twitter.
  • Tweet like the FBI. Write dramatic, compelling status updates that draw followers and get clicks.
  • Make your posts personable. There’s a reason they call it “social” media.
  • Tweak your tweets. Get your message across in 140 characters or less. Plus, learn how to make 140 characters go further — and when you must come in under the character limit.

Learn about my other upcoming progams.

By Ann Wylie, president, Wylie Communications. Ann works with communicators who want to reach more readers and with organizations that want to get the word out. She travels from Hollywood to Helsinki, presenting writing workshops that help communicators at such organizations as NASA, AT&T and H&R Block polish their skills and find new inspiration for their work. For PRSA, she presents programs like “Writing That Sells — Products, Services and Ideas” in on-site sessions across the country. Ann is the author of more than a dozen learning tools, including, a toolbox for writers. In addition to writing and editing, Ann helps organizations launch or revitalize their websites and publications. She has served as a public relations professional in an agency, corporate communicator for Hallmark Cards, editor of an executive magazine and consultant in her own firm. Her work has earned more than 60 communication awards, including two IABC Gold Quills. Get a free subscription to her Writing Tips e-zine.

Join Ann for her webinar, “Writing for Social Media: How to Write Blog Postings, Tweets and Other Status Updates That Expand Your Reach and Influence Online,” and her seminar, “Writing That Sells–Products Services and Ideas: Reach Reluctant Readers,” on Friday, July 9 in Chicago, IL!

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