Trending: Wearing Pants!

When my friends and I were 15, we all yearned to write fiction. We started writing. Our stories had all of this minutiae in every story– what breakfasts were like, what happened on walks to the main plot events, etc.. Done right, that can be part of some great literature. Done wrong, those details are humble cues that you have nothing to talk about or that you mistake the common for the exceptional. Fast forward 30 years: people are Instragramming toast and getting $55k for a potato salad (link: Minute can be massive yet the rules have not changed so entirely.

What happens when a social media post like this comes through;

“I’m wearing pants! I put them on and now I’m going to keep them on throughout the day.”

On the face of it, that seems like the right sort of a post for the world wherein eggs gets 1000 likes. But people have a split of perception. They can appreciate the hyper-trivia for the amusement factor but their core still evaluates what matters. On one level, people would think the pants wearing post is a little quirky. On another level, it says that pants are considered an exceptional triumph of the poster. It says they don’t often wear pants in a culture where people wear pants. It says that wearing pants is a triumph and a novelty for them.

There are fine lines between passing off the mundane as exceptional versus passing off the given as noteworthy. Imagine if your favorite brand of soft drink posted, “Our product has killed no one all week.” It should be a given. When you point out the obvious, it suddenly calls that into question. It asks, “is it so special that happens?”

If you are going to walk out there with the mundane, you have to work it. Take the mundane and dress it up. Trick it out. Push it to the extent of being a farce. That’s what happened with the potato salad Kickstarter campaign. It was too mundane to be considered eligible for a crowdfunding campaign. It was lucky to catch on, then it took off propelled by how ridiculous it was. That was a risky move. If it failed, the creator’s friends would have had fodder for jabs and jibes, but the Internet at large would have missed that he tried this. That’s part of this too: if your support network to get behind your ridiculous display of the mundane, it can have legs. It manufactures social proof from the first cluster of fans and builds from there. But just because you think your idea has legs, you shouldn’t point out the pants.

What it cooks down to: when you make an exceptional job of the mediocre, it can be cute to show off. When you show off the common as special without any dress-up it will likely miss the mark.


Why Is Yawning Contagious?

Yawning is contagious. When one person in the room yawns, invariably other people will yawn. That spontaneous behaviour will make people think they themselves are bored, drowsy or otherwise ready for a nap. I am so susceptible to this that I am uncontrollably yawning while writing this at 9AM on a weekday; that’s the pernicious nature of yawning.

What’s the deal with yawning?

Contagious yawning comes from some deep wiring in our subconscious and ties into our capacity for empathy and social bonding.

Yawns become contagious around age four– that’s the same age we get our socialization happening: language use, preschool, complex decision making all happen at this time too. Children on the autism spectrum are less likely to catch yawns than others. The more severe their condition, the less common the behavior gets. If autism involves an inability to inter-operate with the work around you or the emotional contexts of those around you, it says a lot that there is a relationship.

Scientists still can’t fully explain spontaneous yawning but all air breathing vertebrates yawn (reptiles on up). The number of species that have the phenomenon of contagious yawning is much smaller: humans, chimpanzees and dogs. In other words: people yawn; the closest primate species to us yawns; and man’s best friend yawn.

Yawning when others yawn, is a sign of empathy. It displays an ability to follow social cues. This is about emotional contagion. Making a marketing push go viral is also about emotional contagion. No one ever said, “I need the Hamster Dance for my day.” The viral earworms out there are all emotional and, on some level, irrational. Just as the guy yawning next to you should not make you tired by his yawning, people should be impervious to the viral videos and marketing that nevertheless gets traction.

“Emotional contagion seems to be a primal instinct that binds us together,” said Molly Helt, co-author of a study on autism and its impact on yawning. We are social animals. We look for cues. Cues don’t even have to be entirely legitimate. If I fake a yawn in a crowd, others in the crowd may elicit real yawns. We’re not limited to drowsiness inducement. We’re also prone to contagious laughter and contagious crying. These are exercises in social bonding. We behave like others to gain trust to display commonality. We behave like others because the leaders establish that a behaviour is okay to replicate.

Contagion and Social Proof

Contagious yawning is like the establishment of social proof. If we see that others are doing something, we feel okay following suit. Even if the article of proof is manufactured and honed, the followers may elicit legitimate versions of your crafted message. This is how things take off– people take a cool idea, see how many people are behind it already and feel comfortable running with the idea.
When you build an idea (information on a product, a message that needs uptake or similar), there are ways to get emotional contagion:

  • Share to draw in: when friends share, there is a window where your message appears often, but not so often that it drowns the audience.
  • Quantify: make sure your social sharing widget has a count. Big numbers impress. Even small numbers are still numbers. Don’t miss a chance to demonstrate social proof to press adoption.
  • Share to push out: the social sharing tools and widgets, like AddThis (, are critical to empowering people to share a message.
  • Don’t Overthink It: Social proof can be as basic as, “My buddy Brad likes this!” That humanizes the social proof. It puts a human face to the message. People are more likely to follow through and read if they see an image of a person in the call. People like people.

People are open to emotionally contagious ideas. You can make your idea emotionally contagious if you find a pernicious hook and tie it to people’s capacity to follow others.

Helt, Molly S., Inge-Marie Eigsti, Peter J. Snyder, Deborah A. Fein (2010). Contagious Yawning in Autistic and Typical Development. Child Development, 81(5), 1620-1631. Retrieved from

Social Media Image Size Cheat Sheet

Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube all have ideal image dimensions. When we suggest minimums, consider doubling your image size: people with large high resolution screens will thank you for it.

Facebook Image Size Suggestions

  • Facebook Cover photo size: 851 pixels x 315 pixels
  • Facebook Profile photo size: upload 180 pixels x 180 pixels
  • Facebook App / Tab thumbnail size: 111 pixels x 74 pixels
  • Facebook Link preview size: min. 600 pixels x 315 pixels
  • Facebook Photo post size: min. 504 pixels x 504 pixels
This is a scaled down 1200x630 image

This is a scaled down 1200×630 image

Twitter Image Size Suggestions

  • Twitter Header size: 1920 pixels x 640 pixels with some attention to putting the good stuff in the central 1500 pixels x 500 pixels
  • Twitter Profile size: 400 pixels x 400 pixels
  • Tweeted Image size: min. 440 pixels x 220 pixels

When you share an article try to also couple an image. A Tweet is 140 characters. A picture is worth a 1000 words.

Even though the minimum is 440x220, I use 880x440 images.

Even though the minimum is 440×220, I use 880×440 images.

Google+ Image Sizes

  • Google+ Cover photo size: 1080 pixels x 608 pixels
  • Google+ Profile photo size: 250 pixels x 250 pixels
  • Google+ Shared images – 497 x 373
  • Google+ Shared Links – 150 x 150

LinkedIn Company Page Image Size Suggestions

  • LinkedIn Cover photo size: 646 pixels x 220 pixels
  • LinkedIn logo size: 100 pixels x 60 pixels horizontal or a 50 pixel x 50 pixel square

Pinterest Image Sizes

  • Pinterest Profile Photo size: 165 pixels x 165 pixels
  • Maximum pin width when clicked: 735 pixels

Instagram Image Sizes

  • Instagram Profile Photo size: 110 pixels x 110 pixels mobile, 180 pixels x 180 pixels desktop
  • Instagram photo size: use 640 pixels x 640 pixels for good quality. Reminder the tag and share your stuff!

YouTube Image Sizes

  • YouTube Channel Art size: 2560 pixels x 1440 pixels

Sprinkler Marketing

what's happening: the exact same message is being blasted at all of your verticals. This will disaffect super-fans who see a page clogged with the same message; and this will miss a chance to introduce your message to new people.

what’s happening: the exact same message is being blasted at all of your verticals. This will disaffect super-fans who see their FB feed clogged with the same message and miss a chance to introduce your message to new people.

“Come to my event!!!” “Come to my event!!!”

“Come to my event!!!” “Hey: come to my event!!!”

“Could you come to my event!?!”

Has this happened to you?

People are bent on promoting their given cause. They’re a friend, and friends travel in flocks. All of those friends have been urged to share information. The end effect is that a small number of people end up in front of a fire hose of messaging. That’s the opposite of what you really want. Fire hoses used in that fashion are ideal for knocking down rioters. The fire hose approach is never used to irrigate a field, nurture growth and impact a large area. Social media marketing doesn’t need the fire hose. You don’t want to knock down your audience; you want to expose them to what you have to say. Your message needs a sphere of coverage. Messaging needs “Sprinkler marketing.”

What is Sprinkler Marketing?

Sprinkler marketing is the approach of spreading your message via social media to a wide audience instead of a narrow audience. This serves two purposes:

  • first, it connects with the biggest number of people via social media.
  • second, it connects with friends of friends who are not your friends.
I saw Avengers… 3 times. I’m not going to see the same… lecture 3 times.

If you are preaching to the converted, it may be very hard to sell them on what you are pitching. I saw Avengers in the theatres three times. I am not going to go to the same motivational lecture three times; nor buy the same collection of how-to videos three times. Social media is a river of information and reminders are a necessary evil, but a barrage in quick succession will put off an audience.

Sprinkler Marketing is not a new idea, but people are not getting how to be a light touch with their marketing. The US Republicans got stung by it.

Sprinkler Use 101

Your Posse

Getting the word out for popular people isn’t a big trick. They are innately capable of sharing out stuff. They’ll put it out and 20 minutes later it’s in circulation. Those people likely should not read this post as it has little for them. For the rest of us, it’s not uncommon to encourage friends and loved one to prime the pump: to share stuff not because it’s shareable, but because you need a favour. If you go this route of asking for help, don’t overdo it. Especially, go to distinct cliques of your friends and ask them for a friendly sharing. In Facebook, look at friends and the mutual friends by clicking on the See Friendship link.

Look at the relationship between two people you are sharing with. If two allies have too many mutual friends, your share will appear to be a fire hose and not an irrigation system. Likely an overlap of more than 25 mutual friends is too many. If you run out of distinct friend circles, change the stage.

Your Stage

Facebook isn’t all that. There are many social networks and sharing venues. Some (like Instagram and Flickr) are better suited for specific types of material. Social media junkies will have a foothold in every network, but some will only dabble in a few networks. Some friends of mine are all over LinkedIn, but won’t touch Facebook. Some are keen only on Twitter. If you get allies and strategic sharing happening in other networks, it will help to spread a broad base of exposure. The key to the broad coverage is get some exposure everywhere but not drown anyone in links.


Coverage is great, but social media invites serial amnesia. If you share your links, understand that, after a while, your links will be buried by new content. This process of burying links can be made that much worse if people repeatedly pile on new repeats of old links. That said, be a tiny bit selfish. After you think your initial shares have grown cold (like 72-hours or more), re-share you links, maybe put them through other allies.

If you want to talk about your marketing strategy and how to sprinkle with love instead hose down your audience, Let’s talk!