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February 6, 2011

Why Some Twitter Posts Catch On, And Some Don’t by Natasha Singer in the NYT is an excellent article about how social media is evolving and a quick read marketing professionals should check out. If you missed the article, you can read it here.

Her article discusses work researchers are doing at several leading universities to identify patterns in the way information is shared online. While the research is not necessarily intended for marketing professionals the models could be useful for anyone trying to reach a target audience online. Several recent studies (referenced and linked in the NYT article) look at why some themes online take longer to catch on (i.e. “Go Viral”). Results conclude that people often wait until a number of friends or a trusted source have promoted an idea before sharing it via twitter, facebook, blog, etc. So as a marketer, how does one identify these sources – or better yet, become a ‘trusted source’?

Professor Leskovec, an assistant professor of computer science at Stanford, concludes that the ability for stories / ideas shared online to go viral is largely determined by who covers the material first, and he goes on to suggest in a few years time, “marketers will be more mathematical and less intuition-driven” leveraging social media more effectively to better promote concepts / products online. This is an interesting assertion that should make marketing professionals take note but is not necessarily a surprise. Social marketing, in spite of its novelty for many, is rapidly growing up and strategic decisions are being made by firms where to place their money.

As advertisers start to divert money from traditional sources and make greater investments in social media – more scrutiny will be demanded. Will sites like foursquare and groupon go the way of friendster and myspace or will they go on to rival sites like twitter and facebook? “Intuition-driven” decisions as Professor Leskovec refers to them will become less acceptable as marketing professionals and consumers alike become more sophisticated.

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