Thursday 3 September 2020 by Matthew Casey

Starting social media posts with ‘I don’t usually write posts like this, but…’ increases credibility tenfold


Taking posts seriously

Like a reluctant hero taking up his sword after circumstances had evolved to such a state that complacency had become intolerable, Simon Williams, a sales analyst from Basingstoke, started his Facebook post. It began, “I don’t normally start posts like this, but…”

Williams’ friend, Dr Peter Updike, a surgeon at the local hospital, shared his reaction.

“I was doing a tracheotomy, and I saw Simon’s post, and I just said, ‘Wait, wait, guys. Stop a minute. My mate Simon posted something, and he’s saying he doesn’t normally post stuff like this. Let’s all read it together. Very carefully.”

This and similar situations led social scientists at Cambridge University to develop a study investigating just how seriously people take posts which people “don’t normally write”.

Dr Lauren Gilder, one of the main authors of the study’s findings, shared her revelations.

“Ask anyone off the streets how they react when they see a Facebook post that starts with ‘I don’t normally post stuff like this, but…’ and they’ll say, ‘Oh, I stop everything I’m doing, I find a place where I won’t be disturbed, and I pour over the post, taking every word extremely seriously.

“After all, they don’t normally post stuff like this.”

But just how much does doing this enhance credibility?

She went on, “Our report compiled the reactions of 7,840 different Facebook posts in which the writer began by claiming that he or she doesn’t normally write stuff like this.

“We focused on strongly connotative modifiers, and from these, we mined not just an average of times such posts are taken seriously but how seriously these posts are taken. Not so surprisingly, these posts are taken very seriously 100% of the time, and the credibility of the writers is enhanced tenfold in comparison to a random sample.

“The conclusions are obvious. If you want to be taken seriously all of the time, start all of your posts by saying you don’t normally write posts like this.”

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