October 1, 2014

Study Shows One “Like” Leads to Others in Social Media

facebook study

If you want your content to be “liked” by others on social media, get a friend to “like” it first.

Believe it or not, there is some scientific basis for this.

In fact, researchers who recently published their findings in the journal of Science say giving your content a positive vote immediately after publication makes it 32 percent more likely others will do the same.

Researchers also found this content scored 25 percent higher when calculating the total amount of positive votes than content that received no votes at all when it was first published.

Some may wonder what these results imply about decision making in the digital era. But for businesses trying to market a message using social media, the conclusion is clear. Positive votes in social media have a cumulative effect.

Laying Out The Study

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Hebrew University in Jerusalem and New York University conducted the study over a five month period on an undisclosed social news site.

The site allows readers to submit links to articles and then comment on them. Users of the site can then give the comments a positive or negative vote.

Researchers followed a select group of comments after voting some positive immediately after they were published, others negative and leaving a third control group alone. The results showed the comments with positive votes early on were more likely to receive more of the same and easily outdistanced other comments in total number of positive votes long-term.

Negative Votes Make No Difference

Researchers also found users tended to “correct” manipulated negative votes on posts by voting positively on them instead. The study found posts that started out with negative votes wound up with vote scores nearer those in the control group.

The New York Times also published an overview of the study in the paper’s Science section.

Thumbs Up Photo via Shutterstock

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Joshua Sophy - Staff Writer


Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is a staff writer for Small Business Trends, covering technology and business news. He is a journalist and editor with 15 years experience in media. A former newspaper reporter and editor, Joshua also serves as President of the Board of Directors of a curling club and is editor of a regional newsletter focused on the sport of curling in the Eastern U.S.

18 Reactions

  1. I wonder if this works on Facebook. I’ve never ‘liked’ my own statuses. Doesn’t sit well with me. I’d feel like I was being arrogant. But after reading your post, I’m seeing it a different way now; they’re probably ‘liking’ their own statuses for visibility purposes.

    • Ebele,

      I also don’t feel right about liking my own post… but I think I should right now.

      Perhaps it’s better to put it this way: I will not like my own status updates, but I will definitely like my status updates if they contain others’ information, updates and insights; I like them, thus I share :)

      • Hehe! That’s a good way to put it re: others’ info, etc. But the thing is, if you don’t ‘like’ your status updates in the first place, then you stand less of a chance of others’ info/updates occurring in that status update anyway.

  2. When a post gets more votes the more it is likely to get downvoted. But I think comments and feedback are more important than the number of votes, as shared ideas can bring up more relevant discussions on the subject, thus gaining more readers to your column.

  3. Negative votes makes no difference? That’s quite interesting. It seems like all people are looking for is engagement. Whether it is positive or negative does not really matter. I should try this on a fresh blog. Let’s see if it is really true.

  4. Three universities conducted research that discovered that people would rather be liked than not liked.

    Whose money did they spend to uncover this blinding flash of the obvious?

    So much for higher education and their priorities.

    • Jim,

      I had to laugh at your comment. That was my first reaction, too!

      However, after giving it a bit of thought, I realized there is a non-obvious point here that should not get lost.

      The point is really about “priming the pump.” When you prime the pump, it makes the water flow, i.e., you get the activity going. I do feel that is at least one valuable point that was proved here.

      – Anita

      • You are so right, Anita. The research of MIT, Hebrew U. and New York U after five months concluded that when you prime the pump it makes the water flow–that you get the activity going.

        I wonder how many western Kansas farmers found that to be a revolution. :)

  5. I feel that when your content or status updates starts getting likes from the first few in your network, it truly gives an opportunity for others to like or vote it. The reason is simple and that is – when a reader is reading your status and sees that it has already got some likes, the person the reads your status a second time to check if there is really a reason to like it or not. The result is majority of the time your content gets more and more likes and thus become viral.

    So the researches that are being talked about here in this article are really reasonable and logical, and I think one must like his or her status after seeing that it has been liked or voted by some few already.

  6. It would seem to be something like that of the bystander effect. People are more likely to take action if they see a “like” than if not.

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