Science behind Getting Likes, Comments & Shares

Picture of Jimit Bagadiya

Jimit Bagadiya | March 10, 2015

If you or your brand believes in leveraging your social media presence, you must already have official accounts on various platforms. You take definitive steps towards increasing your consumer engagement and reach.

Social Media Marketing

Most probably, you measure your progress in terms of the likes, comments and shares your posts receive.

What happens when you don’t get the likes, comments and shares you hoped for?

Well, it’s time that you dig in deeper and study the ‘science’ behind getting likes, comments and shares.

Now that many brands and businesses have acknowledged the power of social media marketing and are practicing it, there's plenty of data out there for researchers to analyze the numbers.

Here’s your guide to understanding what works and what doesn’t work in the mysterious world of social media.

A marketing analyst decodes 1.3 million Facebook posts

Dan Zarrella, a social media marketing analyst, decided to do an extensive study on the science of inbound marketing. He chose Facebook as his initial testing ground.

Zarella collected data on more than 1.3 million posts published on the top 10,000 pages in order to create a great sample size to determine the best strategies known till date.

And, what did he intend to do with this data?

His goal was to help the average social media users in getting more comments, likes, and shares on their Facebook posts.

In order to test the posts and pages for efficacy, Zarella scoured all of them and identified some common characteristics which coincided with high and low performance measures. The calculation was based on the percentage of the total number of likes, comments, and shares a particular post received and how that compared to the corresponding percentage for the whole page.

Pictures got the most likes and shares

Zarella’s study showed that a large number of popular posts had photographs.

Don’t be surprised.

Today, your target audience on the social media prefers to indulge in ‘visual learning’ and appreciates posts with visual appeal. Moreover, photographs work well since most social media posts are created for easy scanning.

Hence,

Marketers, today, are finding novel ways to present information in a visual format, for example, infographics, animated videos, GFX videos, etc.

Information in visual format

When it comes to number of shares, photos win, again!

They outperform videos by more than 50%. On the other hand, shares received on text and link posts are also much lesser than those received on photos.

So, what is the secret?

Nobody can stop themselves from sharing photos of beautiful locations, mouth-watering recipes, and inspiring quotes with tasteful fonts. What’s more? They are easier to share as they do not need any description.

A recent study by eMarketer also concurs stating that photos make up for 75% of content posted on Facebook and that they are also more likely to be retweeted on Twitter.

If you have been posting less or no photos on your social media pages, it could be one of the reasons why your marketing efforts aren’t receiving enough likes and shares.

Videos fell behind in the race

Posts with photographs got 50% more likes than video posts.

If the audience seems to be looking for visual content, why are they ignoring videos?

This is most likely due to platform compatibility and quality issues, which should improve over time. YouTube hopes that the new autoplay feature on Facebook will also help grab more attention. If this is the case, then videos may overtake photos in terms of likes, comments, and shares in the near future.

Text posts attract more comments

If you wish to make your audience interact with you on a more personal level – that is by commenting – then take the ‘text’ route.

Unlike their performance in the ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ categories, text posts beat photos, videos, and link posts in the ‘comments’ category.

Text posts attract more comments

Text posts can be of various kinds – text accompanying a photo or an image including some text. Hence, it makes sense that photos come in a close second after text posts when it comes to getting comments. In fact, they're only about 10% lower performing than text posts. Videos, on the other hand, are 60% less likely to get comments and link posts about 80% less likely.

So, why do texts get more comments?

One theory says that texts posts are created in way that they ask or encourage the audience to interact through comments.

Go over all the text posts in your Facebook feed. If you notice, a lot of them would have questions and personal opinions. These of course, beg a response.

Then there are the text posts which are emotionally charged. If someone posts a positive comment about an achievement, they are likely to get many congratulatory remarks.

The study further showed that if posts are written in first-person with keywords like “I” or “me”, they are a lot more likely to get likes. The audience doesn’t relate to a generic post as much as it does to a personal post.

On the other hand, a negative post gets either commiserating comments from those who wish to sympathize or inflammatory comments from those who disagree. In fact, studies show that negatively charged text posts are more likely to get comments than positive posts. Additionally, posts with neither positive nor negative tones are less likely to get likes at all.

According to Adweek, text posts may also be doing better simply because the consumers come across them more often. As Facebook continues to edit their EdgeRank system, business pages aren't getting as much of a foothold in fan feeds.

However, they don't seem to be as strict in case of text-only posts, thereby explaining why they are more likely to get spotted, and, consequently, commented on.

Does the length of a post matter?

Every social media platform has a character limit, and that's to keep our feeds easily scannable and our friends easy to understand!  According to the study though, length matters yet it also differs in two of the categories.  Zarrella found that


It's difficult to say for sure why, but the theory is that the longer the post, the more likely someone will be to simply share it rather than try to summarize what it said on their own feed.  Another theory purports that extremely long text posts may be made up of extremely important information and therefore are more likely to be shared to spread the word.

Likewise, when it comes to Likes, an extremely short post may not necessitate a response and so gets only a Like, and comparatively, an extremely long post may have too much information to delve into and so they simply Like that as well.

So how much is too much exactly?  According to a study by Kevan Lee, the best possible length for a Facebook post is 40 characters or less.  Posts like these apparently “received 86 percent higher engagement than other posts.”

When you post makes a big difference

You'd think with all the mobile technology we have, it wouldn't matter when we posted.  If everyone has access to their smartphone around the clock and are notified of new Facebook posts on their feed, then why would the time of day or even the day itself matter?  The study showed that it does still matter though. If you want a lot of Likes, you'd be wise to post between 5pm and 10pm.  If you want Shares, posting between 4pm and 8pm are your best bets.

Visual  Hourslike

It does appear that people are checking their social media accounts throughout the day on mobile devices or work computers, but they are more likely to do so in quick actions rather than more intensive interactions.That means you'll see Shares spiking throughout the day as people come across amusing media, but if you want them to show something they truly like and maybe even want to comment on, that comes once the work day is over.This makes sense since most periods of browsing are going to occur off the clock and during the evening hours.

FastCompany seems to agree with these metrics and adds that users would be wise to avoid posting before 8am on any platform.  Pre-work, and in some cases, pre-wake hours are some of the worst times to post on social media.

This same theory appears to hold true for days of the week for posting as well.  People are simply more active when they're not working, which means more Likes, Shares, and Comments are happening on the weekends rather than on weekdays.

Automating Your Posts Using Science

If you're using multiple accounts and sending out a lot of posts on a daily basis, this science should do wonders for your interaction levels.  Using a post automation tool like SocialPilot, simply schedule in the date, time, and content that works best according to the figures in this study.  It doesn't get any easier than that!

Picture of Jimit Bagadiya

Jimit Bagadiya

Jimit Bagadiya is the co-founder and CEO at SocialPilot. He brings 13 years of leadership experience in building SaaS platforms. He divides his time between working with his team on product engineering and maintaining a good customer happiness quotient. He aims to bring SocialPilot to the forefront of social business.