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Everyday the Same Picture: Becoming Popular on Facebook with Almost no Content

Posted January 29, 2015

Popularity, or attracting as many visitors as possible, is a sensitive issue for many users of social networks and a vast majority of web-portals. The process usually is fueled by economical motivation: the more visitors you attract, the more successful/profitable you become. For this reason owners of different websites and individual profile pages on different internet-based social platforms strive to provide content that would appeal to a broad audience. But sometimes this method doesn’t work quite as it should be supposed to.

Artistic impression of Toto Cutugno. Image credit: scoppetta via DeviantArt

Sometimes everything it takes to promote your Facebook page is a single picture of some famous person (but the image is not the one above). In this picture – artistic impression of Toto Cutugno, a famous Italian singer, who is famous enough to attract increased attention of internet users (well, at least in Italy). Image credit: scoppetta via DeviantArt

For example, one interesting case was described in a scientific study recently published on Here, a team of Italian scientists investigated effects of content diversity on related information consumption patterns. Basically, entire investigation was based on a single question: what are the user behavior differences when they get a diverse content versus a scenario when content variety is quite petty.

“In the Italian Facebook we have found an interesting case: a page having more than 40 thousand followers that every day posts the same picture of Toto Cutugno, a popular Italian singer”, the authors explain the prehistory of the research. They took this exact page as a reference to investigate what are the associations between popularity and heterogeneity (or, to put it simply, diversity) of content provided via online social networks.

In total 73 Facebook pages dedicated to scientific and conspiracy-related facts were analyzed. The overall dataset contained information about number of likes, comments and shares of all posts available on these pages (around 2 million ‘likes’, 190 thousand comments, made by ~340 and 65 thousand users, respectively).

Distribution of number of likes to posts. Probability for a post to have comments is very different when comparing pages promoting a diverse content and a page dedicated to a highly unvaried content. Image courtesy of the researchers.

Distribution of number of likes to posts. Probability for a post to have comments is very different when comparing pages promoting a diverse content and a page dedicated to a highly unvaried content (in the graph – baseline). Image courtesy of the researchers.

Statistical signatures characterizing the activity of users differed quite obviously. Typical user activity distributions have long-tail probability distributions for a diverse content (number of posts with large number of ‘likes’ is relatively small). But the situation with the baseline – or page posting the same picture of Toto Cutugno – was different indeed. In the latter case, the distribution of ‘likes’ was Gaussian, i.e. a large part of posts always generated significant visitor interest resulting in many likes.

What is the moral of this story? According to the authors, it is possible to model the information consumption patterns by accounting for the effects of content heterogeneity. Speaking in practical terms, it certainly doesn’t mean that you should develop a narrower attitude to the things happening around you. It is highly likely that those with a narrow attitude simply do not need a very diverse content.

Written by Alius Noreika

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