As much as I wince when I see “Please RT”, clear calls to action do work on social media.
Here’s a deep-dive from Facebook’s data scientists, who went full-wonk in this post on memes (emphasis mine):
In fact, there are certain phrases that give a variant of the meme an advantage or boost, e.g. clear replication instructions such as “please post this”, or “copy and paste” give a variant a 2x advantage. Other favorable phrasings include encouragement and allusions to competition (“see how many people”), persistence cues (“status for at least”), or conditions that are easy to match or identify with (“if you love your”, “if you know someone”, “paste if you agree”, “proud to be a”). A specific pattern, “of you won’t”, occurred in prompts such as ‘95% of you won’t copy this, but the 5% who [have a positive attribute] will’. 144 memes contained at least one variant matching “won’t […] will”. These variants had significantly higher likelihood of being copied, 10.98 copies on average, relative to an average of 7.05 overall.
From the researchers’ outwardly content-neutral perspective, these are a list of phrases that help your posts get shared. From a Facebook user’s perspective, they read more like a list of irritating things that you can’t seem to get out of your News Feed. The study’s release coincides with a push within Facebook to demote what it calls “low quality” posts and memes. The company has been reluctant to define “low quality” with any specificity, and has suggested that much of this judgement will fall to its algorithms (how many people are hiding a post, for example). But it has become clear that Facebook will be making some kind of editorial judgement.