The Psychology of Social Media Voting

Posted by in Social Media & Online PR on January 18th, 2008 0 Comments

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what motivates people to vote of social news sites like Digg & Sphinn. Common sense suggests it’s just that the users appreciate the quality of the content they are voting on. But there’s a lot more too it than that.

While I’m no psychology expert, but I’ve spent some time reading the opinions of some. I won’t bore you with the details of the long winded dissertations and papers because in true social media style I’ve summarised there findings into six reasons people vote for content. So you can create content that people can’t help but vote for.

Further an Agenda – its true people vote on content they want other people to come into contact with so they can convince them of their point of view.

Those who use Digg or Sphinn regularly will appreciate there are certain people who want to talk people into their point of view, so they vote up content which shares that opinion and down content that doesn’t.

Whether it’s the Anti-SEOmoz contingent on Sphinn or the Apple Fanboys on digg they have similar purposes.

You have a couple of options when creating content for these communities take a similar tact or dodge the topic completely.

To Network – there is plenty of evidence that deliberate reciprocal voting takes place, but many people participate in a far more subtle form of collusion where their aim is to network with other users.

We’ve all been there, it might be you vote on certain users submissions because you’d like them to visit your blog or vote up a submission of someone who has voted on your work in the past.

As a genuine member of the community you’ll over time build up this good will, though if you are encouraging favours, don’t ask to often, people will quickly get bored. It’ll harm your reputation and if a pattern does develop you won’t seem the same rewards.

To Get Good Content in Return – With social news sites the idea is everyone benefits from the shared workload. Many people will feel compelled to vote to do there bit to receive high quality content. If you can appeal to this community spirit when producing content you’re bound to benefit.

Feeling of Control – the reason people love voting sites is because they set the agenda, even the owners can’t really control the sites output completely. The Digg cracked code is a good example of people using their control.

While you might be able to benefit from jumping on a bandwagon like this once in a while there are ways you can appeal to users desire to feel in control, whether its voicing a common feeling or just bending the rules a little there’s always an opportunity to take advantage of this motivation to vote.

To Feel Part of Community – have you ever wondered why post with lot’s of votes quickly accumulate even more. It’s partially because people like show there are part of the community. It’s the same reason Sphinn posts about Sphinn do well and Digg posts about Digg. It’s always worth considering appealing to social news sites’ vanity

Enjoy Content – you can over mystify why people vote (I’ve done a fair bit above) but you’ve got to remember their voting cause they like what you’ve written. Do you best job at producing something amazing and the voting ‘should’ take care of itself.

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