Last week, Facebook’s data analysis team published some interesting facts about its users based on an analysis of 1 million status updates from English speakers in the United States. Here’s some of what they found out:
- Old people tend to babble–length of status updates was the best predictor of a user’s age. Religious terms, social processes, and family were also more common among older users
- Kids skip words–there was a strong correlation between age and the use of articles and prepositions. Younger users were also more likely to swear, express anger, and use the word “I.”
- Using the word “you” is a sign that you have lots of friends.
- People are most positive in the morning–that’s when status updates contained the most positive emotional messages. Negative emotions spiked after 10 p.m.
- References to time peak in the morning. This is probably people posting about how late they were up last night, how late they are for work, and so on.
- Updates with negative emotions receive more comments than those with positive emotions, probably as friends race to console each other.
- People tend to use the same kind of words in status updates as their friends–particularly if they’re referring to their family, using religious words, or swearing.
To get these results, the company used 68 word categories from the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) Dictionary, a textual analysis program that identifies parts of speech (like prepositions and articles) as well as content (such as religious references or terms that indicate a strong emotion). It then correlated Facebook status messages against user characteristics like age, number of friends, and time of day.
The statistics could be very useful to advertisers and marketers. For instance, if a rock band wants to match the habits of younger users, its updates should be angry and full of curse words and sexual references–not much of a stretch, really. Or, if an event planner wants to get users out that night, the promotional push should start around 4 p.m., when references to leisure activities begin to spike.
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