As content marketing has grown, so has the desire for people to understand just how content can spread through social networks. By and large I’m incredibly skeptical of claims made by agencies that they have mastered so called viral marketing, with the belief that such things are often far too complex to ever truly understand, much less master.
That hasn’t stopped several researchers from attempting to crack the code however. The latest of which are a team of Stamford researchers who have attempted to uncover the secret to success on social news website Reddit, with the title of each submission explored in particular detail.
The authors explained how they went about their investigation. “We proposed a novel dataset of images posted to reddit.com, each of which has been submitted multiple times, with multiple titles. We developed community models to account for effects other than the title, such as the choice of community the image is submitted to and the number of times it has been submitted. We also developed language models that account for how the success of each submission was in?uenced by its title, and how well that title was targeted to the community. These models allowed us to study features of good title, and to understand when, where, and how a submission should be targeted.”
They found that by and large, the quality of the content was the main deciding factor, although the title was still of considerable importance. They found that title features such as the length, descriptiveness and even sentence structure can predict whether that content will be successful.
The findings chime with other research into submissions to other social networks. MIT for instance looked at what kind of tweets get retweeted, and came up with 10 rules that improve your chances of being shared. As many tweets are derived from the title of the content, the implications are clear, especially as Dan Zarella found that a good number of people share content without having read it. Likewise, email marketers have long known the importance of having a great headline. If nothing else, these studies underline the importance of creating a good headline for your content, and potentially spending as much time on that as the content itself.