Monday, February 09, 2009

The Half-Life of Social Media

How long do people pay attention to Social Media?

Social media consists of an ever-widening variety of tools - from the flash of twitter to the permanence of Google. Jeremiah Owyang recently listed some work done by HP labs on social computing addressing how social media actually works. One report covers what keeps people publishing Consumer Generated Content (YouTube). The second addresses the question: Can we predict popularity of an item (YouTube or Digg)?

The papers are analytic in nature and go into depth of how the conclusions were drawn. I'll try to summarize the key learning here.

1. People need positive reinforcement to continue being an active contributor. Using videos as the example, people increase their contributions as their downloads increase. They also slowly stop contributing as viewing slows. (The analysis suggests that it goes this way rather than viewership decline causing a slowing of uploads.)

2. The life-span of certain social media can be defined in hours (Digg) while others have a much more lasting impression (YouTube). It seems to be easier to predict Digg than YouTube, but the effort is still probably worth it.

What does this mean for marketers:
1. Consumer Generated Content: Consider either a short term campaign, e.g. super bowl ad, or ensure your long-term program has ample active management, encouragement and reward.

2. Channel Selection: the diffusion of information is very different by channel; some are appropriate for monitoring while others have a chance of participation and scalability. Choose the tactic based on your strategy for achieving an objective.

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