Brands talk like 10-year-olds on Facebook, study says

A study of 5,804 brand Facebook pages and 1,578,006 total posts offers some fascinating conclusions. Sixty-seven percent of posts are at a 5th grade reading level or below.

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Brands talk like 10-year-olds on Facebook? Aquul/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I want to talk about progress.

Sometimes we're aware it's happening. At other times, it takes years of looking back before we realize when big steps forward were really taken.

So I wonder whether some research performed by competitive intelligence company Track Maven offers hope or despair.

These deep thinkers decided, in an entirely sober state, to stare at 5.804 Facebook pages and 1,578,006 posts to see what truths they might reveal.

To be clear, all these posts were written on behalf of some of the 15 million brands and companies on Facebook.

Once they had done reading, the mavens thought a little, added a few things up and reached a sort of State of the Commercial Union.

I pored over the figures that Track Maven sent me and one spoke to me like none other: 67.3 percent of Facebook posts are written at a 5th grade reading level or below.

One's instinct is to say: "My goodness, this is a national crisis. We can barely write beyond the level of a 10-year-old."

One's mind though might counter: "But last year, we could barely write beyond the level of a 9-year-old. The economy is looking up."

It's fascinating to wonder whether the shorthand that is so often used by everyone these days has seeped so deeply into the linguistic side of minds that what used to appear juvenile now passes for mature sentence structure.

Or could it be that the minds of readers have now become so dumbed down that we're only too happy to accept basic thoughts that might be regurgitated on Facebook.

Of course, it could be that companies just think consumers are stupid.

Evidence of this last idea is another of the study's findings: If you slap exclamation points at the end of your posts, they will enjoy 2.7 times the engagement. Really!!!

On other hand, the use of a question mark increases the engagement by only 23 percent. Clearly we don't care that other people want to ask us things. We're far more interested in the fact that they're excited. Or, rather, excited!!!!!

Then there's the power of the hashtag. Smirk all you like, but slap one of those in your corporate post and your engagement will surge by 60 percent. Allegedly.

But are we so hurried, so brief, so needing to have instant communication, short, sharp and to the point?

Some 88.31 percent of these posts contained 40 words of less.

However, those who could muster 80 words or more -- and what a strain that must have been -- apparently enjoyed twice the engagement.

So now you know how to be a corporate success on Facebook.

Write something along these lines: "You'll never guess, like, just how fantastic, like, our new little gizmo thingy is!!!! It's just so, like, cool and sexy and totally for everyone that all you have to do is buy it and everyone'll think you're cool!!! And, y'know, it's so cheap that it's actually free!!! You can't get cheaper than free!!!! So just click here now and let us send you the new little free gizmo thingy that we're so excited to send and you'll be excited too!!"

I think that was more than 80 words.

 

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