by Marsha Rakestraw

Social media is a powerful tool for social change, but to be effective it requires frequent time, attention, and research. And it is constantly evolving, so what was best practice a few months ago may not be true now.

As humane educators and changemakers, it’s important that we keep up with research and strategies that help us best inspire and empower others.

Recently the animal protection group Mercy for Animals gathered data from 1,600 Facebook posts from a variety of animal protection groups and analyzed the data to look for patterns. From their analysis they synthesized Nine Rules for Dominating Facebook.

Here’s what they found tends to work:

1.  Post tons and tons of Facebook videos. Then post some more.
Videos generated 130% more impressions (and an even higher percentage among non-followers) than photos did. Photos tend to do better than links.

2.  Make people feel something, especially sadness, anger, amusement, or nausea.
Posts that elicit emotions tended to get 80% more impressions than “neutral” posts. But be careful with “negative” emotions posts; they can shut people down and annoy Facebook’s algorithm. People like feeling empowered and inspired.

3.  Use fewer than 10 words.
The tendency is that more text used in your status update means fewer impressions. So find power in fewer words.

4.  Ask for shares, not likes or comments.
Asking people to share resulted in 20% more impressions than no call to action at all. Asking for likes or comments tended to decrease impressions.

5.  Quote often.
People like quotes. Posts with quotes tended to get 40% more impressions overall.

6.  Link to a news article, not a blog, when you want more traffic.
Links to news articles tended to result in 60% more impressions than links to blog posts. Of course, you’ll want to promote your blog; just be aware of these tendencies.

7.  If it’s about an animal, make it a baby.
Photos of baby animals got about 20% more impressions than those with only adult animals.

8.  Farmed animal + companion animal = win.
The kind of animal shown mattered, too. If you’re posting photos about farmed animals, for best results, include photos pairing up a farmed animal with a dog or cat.

9.  Post food and meme photos.
In their analysis, MFA discovered that food photos and photo memes tended to get a lot of impressions, so include them when you can.

Read the complete study information here.

While these recommendations are specific to animal protection (and especially farmed animal protection), the themes are relevant to humane educators and changemakers working on a variety of issues.

And while it’s valuable to try best practices like these, pay attention to what works best for your particular group of participants and supporters.