A smile is contagious. We know this because we have all experienced it. And scientists tell us it’s true. It works at the other end of the scale too – I have implored with a girlfriend, ‘Please don’t cry or I’ll start.’ It has been known for some time that emotions such as happiness, disappointment and anger can spread through face to face contact as we mimic emotionally charged behaviour such as changing facial expressions but it has always been assumed we need to see or hear each other for this to catch.
A recent study detecting emotional contagion in massive social networks (which translates as ‘does smiling on Facebook make other Facebook users smile too?’) suggests that mood does indeed travel across networks between people who don’t know or can’t see each other. These clever boys used rainfall and gazillions of Facebook and Twitter users to measure the effects. I have had a flick through the study. I skimmed it mainly because I’m not a scientist and there were some pretty daunting formulae such as this one.
Reading the introduction and conclusion was far more useful than deciphering that algebraic confection so I will summarise the whole lot for you. If it’s raining in Auckland, those connected with Aucklanders across social media will also be affected by the mood the rainfall has brought about.
This gets pretty interesting when you use social media for business. Staying perky and upbeat will have an effect on your customers. If you are in the same industry as a load of people under a bit of ‘rainfall’ then you’ll stand out with a positive and warm attitude. The study notes that the emotional contagion isn’t necessarily immediate but can take effect over a period of time. It is important to maintain and monitor the mood you are emitting in your content. Are you a serious, conservative communicator? Do you want your customers to behave in a serious manner when connecting with you? My advice would be to keep the sun shining over your Facebook status.