Article Header: Keep smiling... Unless you can't.

Keep Smiling, Unless You Can’t

July 29th, 2013   |  

Facebook posts with a positive sentiment get more likes, but what can you do when your organization needs to disseminate something that isn’t positive?

There have been a few studies showing that optimistic posts get more likes, so when I was recently helping a client create a social media strategy, I threw in this brilliant bit of advice: be positive.

Unlike traditional media (i.e., the news) where the attitude can be summed up in the less-than-cute quip, “if it bleeds, it reads,” social media audiences prefer a little joy in their digital feeds. On social media, we like to hear good news—we like posts about weddings, babies, cats, nights out, inspirational sayings, and witticisms. We turn to our friends to load up on happiness rations, so we can survive the abundance of disheartening news that accosts us each day.

Being positive is easy advice to take for most people, but if your organization works in a serious business, the kind of business in which international human rights are a consistent concern, being positive gets complicated. It’s hard to be positive about human suffering without sounding, at best, naively optimistic. Hard work requires hard truths.

So what should you do if you have bad news to post?

For starters, remember that organizations don’t have friends; they have likes and followers. People don’t expect the same from a brand as they do from their friends. If someone is following your posts, they’re turning to you for information about your cause and treating you more like a source of news. I’m not saying that the sentiment data should be ignored, but you shouldn’t throw away your mission just to inspire more likes. If your organization focuses on rectifying social injustice, and you want to bring attention to something important (but not necessarily happy), then do it—that’s what you’re here to do.

The types of posts you choose to put out into the world will also depend on the type of engagement you’re looking for. Likes are only one way users engage with social media. While posts with a positive sentiment do get more likes, negative posts get more comments. Comments are dangerous territory, but if your goal is to start a conversation, then allowing the negative sentiment to persist might not be the worst thing you can do, but don’t be inflammatory; baiting commentators is asking for trouble.

To balance your social presence and ensure that your followers like you, try to be hopeful and inclusive. Reinforce the good (or the potential for good) in a bad situation and make sure your readers know that the potential for good relies on or at least includes them. In fact, more popular users tend to use the second person pronoun “you” more often, reinforcing the preference for inclusive interaction.

While there’s no single right way to use social media, the most important part of any interaction with your audience is to be honest, engaging, and inclusive. If you can, be positive, but if you can’t, don’t fake it.

Also, apparently, don’t talk about sleep—posts using the word “sleep” get the least likes and comments.

Posted in News, Social Media.
Related Articles