Popularity Pays: People Are 32% More Likely To ‘Like’ If There Is A Preexisting Positive Vote

It turns out that social media users may act more herd-like than you may think. The American Association for the Advancement of Science performed a study on the effects of prior social votes on current user behavior. The study shows that preexisting votes have a profound effect on the content’s overall social performance. The test analyzed comments on a website that allowed users to vote and respond to others. In the tests, some of the comments were artificially inflated, while others were left untouched.


If a user read a comment that had a previous positive score, they were 32% more likely to provide their own positive vote. Overall, those updates with an initial positive vote ended up with scores 25% higher than a control group. This research shows that the false positives helped to inflate scores and shape overall opinions of users.

On the overall variance, Sinan K. Aral, a professor of IT and marketing at MIT and a researcher on the project, stated “That is a significant change .. we saw how these very small signals of social influence snowballed into behaviors like herding.”

Additionally the survey showed that the overall relationship between the voter and the commenter played an important role in the outcome. Those who were friendly with commenters would try to boost up any negative scores. The research  showed that those who were adversaries would not go out of their way to knock down others with a negative vote and that in the end the initial negative votes didn’t play as large a role as expected as their results were indistinguishable from those in the control group.

The website that was used in the test allowed users to vote on and comment on  posted comments. The name of the site was not disclosed.

For more information see the full report or the NY Times.


Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Facebook | Facebook: Statistics | Social Media Marketing | Statistics: Social Media


About The Author: is the Director of Marketing for Cypress North, a company that specializes in social media and search marketing services and web-based application development. He has been in the Internet marketing industry for 6+ years and specializes in Social Media Marketing. You can also find Greg on Twitter (@gregfinn) or LinkedIn.

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  • Pat Grady

    Cialdini called it “Social Proof”.

  • Geoff Roy

    Dr Watson said “no sh*t Sherlock”. good to see the research to back up the obvious though

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