How the Web Has Changed Business


It’s a fact that has only become truer as the Web has changed the face of media and exponentially increased the volume of content we’re exposed to on a daily basis. Five times as many people read the headline as read the copy. And with social media, that can have some unintended consequences.

This morning, while skimming Facebook posts, I saw the image of the best zero turn mower popping up repeatedly in my news feed. Because I saw it so many times, I clicked through, curious to see how the comments played out (e.g., what percentage of commenters supported each candidate). Politics aside – I was shocked to see that the overwhelming number of commenters were actively opposed to the Romney Plan as outlined in the image.

Talk About Shock!

Why was I so shocked? Not because I’m revealing some political inclination, but because, after reviewing the 300 most recent comments (admittedly, I didn’t have time to review all 43,000 comments, and counting, for sentiment), I found only 4 Romney supporters.

And yet – even though the commenter (whose name has been blacked out for privacy reasons) in my feed was very opposed to the plan, the post actually helped Romney’s PR team spread their message.

Let’s look at why:

In a news feed full of text, a large, brightly colored image with bold, large font text captures attention. The most prominent part of the status update is the image itself, not the commenter’s status or text.

The first thing I’ve seen in my feed is the Romney team’s message. Assuming, like many Facebook users, that I’m skimming through “headlines” to get a gist of what’s going on in my network today, I’ll see the image (over and over), and the implication is that these people have endorsed the message in the image they’re sharing. Statistically – for every person who takes the time to read further, FIVE more will see the image (the headline), absorb that content, and move on.

If I’m actually curious enough about that particular user’s sentiment, I’ll take note that (in much smaller font), the user has commented on the photo – but the comment isn’t visible for me to see. In this case, I’ll have to dig through the recent comments in a string of more than 43,000. And unless I have a particularly vested interest in this particular person’s political views, I’m not going to spend that kind of time.

What About You?

How does that play out for the average Facebook user? According to the social network, the average Facebook user has 190 friends. That means that, for every 33 people who will take the time to read beyond your image, 157 will read the content of the image alone and move on. At time of posting, based on those figures, the commenters of these images exposed 6.8 MILLION of their friends to the message in the image alone, while only 1.4 million actually clicked through to examine the individual comments and overall sentiment of the Coway AP-1512HH review.

So, with the type of cursory glance that most of my network will take at my posts, or that yours will take at yours (especially if you have a high number of Facebook friends), I’m left with the impression that you support the Romney Plan. And in 296 cases – 98.67 percent – that is the exact opposite impression.

I’m reminded of the movie Private Parts and an exchange between “Pig Vomit” and a researcher:

  • Researcher: ‘The average radio listener listens for eighteen minutes. The average Howard Stern fan listens for – are you ready for this? – an hour and twenty minutes.’
  • Pig Vomit: ‘How can that be?’
  • Researcher: ‘Answer most commonly given? “I want to see what he’ll say next.”‘
  • Pig Vomit: ‘Okay, fine. But what about the people who hate Stern?’
  • Researcher: ‘Good point. The average Stern hater listens for two and a half hours a day.’
  • Pig Vomit: ‘But if they hate him, why do they listen?’
  • Researcher: ‘Most common answer? “I want to see what he’ll say next.”

While these pro-Obama commenters aren’t listening to hear what will be said next, they are doing more for the Romney PR team than his supporters to spread his message and “boost his ratings.”

What are your thoughts on the virality of ads such as these?