Facebook’s data team reports that word choice in status updates follows patterns based on age, number of friends and time of day. Diction influences the number of likes and comments that an update gets.
To study diction, or word choice, the Facebook data team relied on 68 different categories. Some refer to parts of speech, like nouns and verbs; others have an emotion in common, like sadness or anger; and others are topical groups, like school, work, or religion.
These groupings get a lot more specific than the examples I just mentioned. To see all of them, scroll down to the really tall infographic at the bottom of this post.
The data team spotted the most patterns among people with the largest numbers of friends, and also discovered some truths to age stereotypes. As for the former, popular folks:
- Use words like “you” and other second-person pronouns more often
- Write longer status updates
- Refer to music and sports more frequently
- Are less emotional in their status updates
- Discuss their families less often
- Use fewer words related to time
- Use fewer verbs in the past or present tense
The data team didn’t find a correlation between age and frequency of posting status updates. However, younger people:
- Tend to express more negative feelings
- Swear more often
- Refer to themselves more
- Discuss school
Apparently, older people don’t necessarily update their statuses less frequently, but they do:
- Write longer status updates
- Discuss other people more frequently
- Use more prepositions and articles
Time of day has already proven to determine several patterns in postings, but the data team has just unearthed a couple more based on the simple fact that people discuss what they do, want or need.
- More status updates about sleep appear at night and early in the morning.
- Posts about school and work increase in the mornings.
- Status updates about social activities increase as the day proceeds.
- People use more positive words in their updates during the morning, and then that declines as the day progresses.
- Negative words don’t appear much in the mornings but increase as the day progresses.
By now you’re probably thinking that these findings simply quantify the common sense things we’ve already noticed on Facebook. Now comments and likes of status updates show some things you expect and a couple of surprises.
- Postive words in status updates garner the most likes.
- Negative words in status updates get fewer likes.
- Positive emotional words in status updates get fewer comments.
- Negative emotional words in status updates get more comments.
- Longer status updates get more comments and likes.
- Updates with more pronouns get more comments and likes.
- Updates about religion only get likes.
- Sleep-related updates tend to get the fewest comments and likes.
Now the last thing in this set of findings may be the most obvious of all, or at least it’s something you figure out by the time you’re in college: People’s choice of words reflects those of their friends. The more frequently a category is used among your circle, the more you use it too.
Do you see any new marketing possibilities in the status update patterns unearthed by Facebook’s data team?