How priming can give you the social edge

Marking the Moment: When it comes, the Pistorius verdict will likely be shared widely.

Marking the Moment: When it comes, the Pistorius verdict will likely be shared widely.

The easy thing about working with our data is it’s retrospective. We’re neatly classifying stories that have already happened. A more difficult mission is to predict what will share in real time as stories are written and distributed through the news ecosystem.

We’re working through our current crop of data with the aim of doing just that – establishing a replicable framework for sharing; for creating, selecting and distributing content that has a higher-than-average chance of being shared.

The raw materials of story production will change over time as readers grow tired of certain subjects but we think there’s a fundamental framework of sharing stories that has always existed and will continue to even as the subject matter – and mix of social networks – changes.

Journalists need to make many decisions on the fly, including which stories to promote and invest in. Software such as the Share Wars Likeable Engine can alert editors to nascent virality of stories in real time. For those who don’t have social analytics, there are some tips from our analysis of the category of sharing called Marking the Moment that can help.Marking_moment_breakdown_new

These revolve around the concept of priming, in which readers are more likely to consume new developments in a story if they have past knowledge of the narrative. If the audience knows a crazed gunman is on the run, they are receptive to news of his capture (or escape).

Priming social tips:

1. Know which crime sagas the audience is primed for. Malcolm Naden was on the run for almost five years but the story reached fever pitch after several near misses in the rough country around Gloucester last year. Keep a list of these sagas and be ready for a stunning development.

2. Look out for stories that provoke in the reader a sense of nostalgia or a confrontation with their own mortality. The deaths of entertainers that we identify with a certain era share particularly well – news of Whitney Houston’s, Robin Gibb’s and Adam Yauch’s deaths were among the most shared stories during the past 12 months.

Following are some big developments to current stories that will share widely. Each contains an element of audience priming. Each would also be at the top of any good news editor’s news list so we could title it Bleeding Obvious Mega Stories to Watch Out For. All the same, they will be shared rapidly and extensively by people marking the moment.

  1. Rudd rolls Gillard
  2. Star dies: movie/music/prominent statesman
  3. New Pope announced
  4. Aussie sportsman admits to drugs
  5. Pistorius murder trial verdict

We’ll watch these stories and report back on their sharing performance after the next major development.

Oh, and one more to watch … if Malcolm Naden ever busts out of jail, the Likeable Engine could well go into meltdown.

 

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Andrew Hunter

About Andrew Hunter

Andrew Hunter is Editor-in-Chief of Microsoft's MSN. Twitter: @Huntzie

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