Modeling The Flow Of Information In Social Media

June 20, 2007

A blog entry at MediaPost pointed out that consumers can avoid the salesmen/admen assault and have a new freedom to seek out product information because of Web 2.0 technologies; social media facilitates a process where companies and their products are now sought out instead of vice versa. But when spending ad money specifically within the realm of social media (online display ads/search ads not included here) Josh Lovison does a great job of reminding us exactly what we are trying to buy: influence, not direct conversions. In other words, within this niche of the digital world we are trying to create a self-sustaining PR machine: the goal of a social media campaign is to generate consumer interest among individuals who will then spread their enthusiasm to other acquaintances, hopefully creating a chain of brand advocates. Thus, as Brian Solis asserts in Social Computing Magazine:

Social media has created a new layer of influencers. It is the understanding of the role people play in the process of not only reading and disseminating information, but also how they in turn, share and also create content for others to participate. This, and only this, allows us to truly grasp the future of communications.

Accordingly, understanding the process of this information flow is one of the most critical goals to envisioning the future of advertising in emerging media.

One applicable model is diffusion research, commonly referred to as ‘diffusion of innovations theory.’ I first came across this term in a New Yorker article about ‘Cool Hunters,’ a pdf of which you can find in my Box widget to the right. Another applicable framework is utilizing epidemiological modeling to aid our understanding concerning the potential of an online dialog. One group posted a lengthy article about their research into a similar matter, during which they came up with a fairly effective mathematical formula to model the spread of an idea (the pdf ‘Power of a Good Idea’ is also available in the Box widget). Unfortunately, the math is way over my head, so unless you are a large firm that can afford a consultant or happen to have a math genius on the staff, it may be a little unrealistic; however, it really may be worth a try.

Right now there are useful tools such as Technorati, Alexa and BlogPulse, but I have yet to see this information overload put into a coherent and accessible tool which greatly hinders our ability to find out what works. Hopefully we can get to that discovery sooner rather than later and stay ahead of the game.

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