Ferguson Retires - Twitter Reaction Infographic via @faceresearch
Anatomy of Two Memes
As you might have heard, we’ve just launched a new social media intelligence toolPulsar TRAC, and along with it, we’re releasing a new series of data studies called How Stuff Spreads in collaboration with our social data partners Datasift.
How Stuff Spreads will look at how digital content (videos, articles, websites, and images) travels the social web. This, the first instalment, looks at how two memes spread on Twitter: Gangnam Style vs Harlem Shake.
Gangnam Style and Harlem Shake were viral phenomena, generating thousands of spin-off versions and billions of views. By using Pulsar TRAC’s Content Tracking technology, we are able to track any social media conversation containing a specific URL and analyse who is talking about it, gateways and hubs, topics of discussion, geography of the discussion and key channels.
Me (@abc3d) and Jess Owens (@hautepop) wanted to understand how Gangnam and Harlem became global memes. So we set out to compare how the top 5 versions of each video were shared on Twitter, looking at 8 dimensions of each meme:
Shape: Number of shares per video, over lifetime of the meme
Lifespan: Number of consecutive days where people shared the meme 500+ times
Popularity: Number of unique users sharing the meme over its lifetime
Shareability: Total Twitter shares per each million of YouTube views
Globality: How international was the meme?
Amplification: How influential were the people who shared the meme
Variation: How much did attention to the meme vary day-by-day?
DiffusionNetwork: Hubs and nationalities who drove the spread of the meme
Here’s what we found out.
1) Memes have different shapes. Gangnam Style showed a top down or ‘vertical’ pattern, with the original video generating 10x as many YouTube views and shares as any of its variations. Conversely Harlem Shake was more bottom up or ‘horizontal’ in its dynamic, with the original seed sparking thousands of variations, some of which did better than the original in terms of views and shares.
2) The shape of a meme affects its lifetime. We defined a meme as ‘live’ (popular and actively shared) as the time when it was getting at least 500+ URL shares on Twitter per day. Whereas Gangnam Style lived for 172 consecutive days, Harlem Shake only survived for 29.
Why did Gangnam, the “top down” meme, live over 5x longer than the “bottom up” Harlem Shake? A possible clue may come from the three-part-process of social movement formation which Charles Duhigg describes in his book “The Power of Habits”:
“A movement starts because of the social habits of friendship and the strong ties between close acquaintances.
It grows because of the habits of a community, and the weak ties that hold neighborhoods and clans together.
And it endures because a movement’s leader gives participants new habits that create a fresh sense of identity and a feeling of ownership”
Whereas Gangnam Style offered a strong top-down narrative with an easily identifiable leader in Psy, Harlem Shake had a more distributed narrative with no real leadership and guidance outside of the format. Consequently it didn’t succeed in creating a ‘habit’ that would outlive the interest from the local and community networks who where the real engine behind this meme.
3) Regardless of their shape, memes spread in waves. Both memes showed a very spikey distribution, with attention to the video fluctuating dramatically day-by-day. We quantified this variation by first calculating the standard deviation of the daily sharing rate (i.e. how much sharing levels varied day by day), then dividing by the mean to give us the coefficient of variation.
Typically all the videos saw a lot of variation in the rate they were shared, with Gangnam Style being more consistent (196% variation) then Harlem Shake (338% variation). But three videos stood out for showing much more variability: YouTube Gangnam Rewind (807%), Britney Spears learning Gangnam on the Ellen Show (574%) and basketball team Miami Heat’s Harlem Shake (517%). These videos each saw a massive launch spike – e.g. Britney with 15,792 tweets carrying the link on September 11 2012, and Miami Heat’s Harlem Shake with 63,927 on March 02 2013.
How did they achieve this? Each video was led by an individual or organization with massive reach – YouTube and Britney Spears both have 26m Twitter followers, and Miami Heat has a strong community of 1.2 million. This means they were able to activate a big existing audience to get the video out very quickly on Day 1 – hence the big spike in sharing. But within a couple of days, that audience was saturated – everyone who’d be interested had already seen the video. The Britney Spears variation of Gangnam Style, linked to The Ellen Show, was only newsworthy within a brief timeframe. Miami Heat’s take on the Harlem shake was particularly relevant to the basketball community and expired once the “local” reach was somewhat exhausted. So sharing dropped off precipitously – hence the big variation score.
It’s almost a risk to be a social media influencer – you can activate a large audience very quickly, but that attention can be burnt through equally fast. By comparison, the Gangnam Original video had one of the lowest variation scores (114%). Psy was new to Western and Latin American audiences, so the video travelled more slowly through social networks – but this helped attention sustain for fully six months.
4) Small communities drive virality. The relationship between communities and viral spread is reinforced by the fairly high density and modularity of both the Gangnam Stye and Harlem Shakes networks. This highlights the key role of small communities in spreading the meme. Within the Gangnam Style network, 14% of the people sharing the link passed it on or grabbed it from someone, while within the Harlem Shake network the connected sharers increase to 17% of the overall pool of users. These figures are remarkable considering the globally dispersed diffusion of the memes.
By contrast, influencers only accounted for a small percentage of the total buzz. Out of 767,000 unique mentioners of the Gangnam Style videos only 64 generated more than 100 retweets and only 8 more than 1000. Out of 173,000 unique mentioners of the Harlem Shake videos, only 9 generated more than 100 retweets. That means that for Gangnam Style less than 5% of the total shares were directly connected to the influencers, and for Harlem Shake only 1%.
5) Both memes transcended physical geography, even though both were born out of specific geographic areas and subcultures.
We measured the memes’ Globality (% of shares coming from countries other than the top one, usually the USA). Both memes were very international, but Gangnam Style turned out to be more global then Harlem Shake (78% vs. 63%) This makes intuitive sense – Gangnam Style started in Korea and spread to win massive popularity across North America, Latin America and Europe. Most viewers didn’t understand the lyrics, but the strong visual character meant this didn’t matter. By contrast, some of the Harlem Shake videos were much more geographically and culturally specific – particularly the Miami Heat basketball Harlem Shake, which got fully half (49%) of its sharing from within the United States.
This is also clearly shown in the network analysis, where the number of retweets spanning from the central nodes of the Harlem Shake meme network confirms this US-centric pattern of engagement. Conversely the central nodes in the Gangnam Style meme network are connected to a very diverse range of countries.
6) Popularity doesn’t mean Shareability, and Shareability doesn’t imply Popularity. While Harlem Shake turned out to be 3x more shareable then Gangnam Style, it still ended up being 4.5x less popular in terms of the number of unique users sharing it.
How did this happen? This is certainly connected to the higher mainstream coverage of Gangnam Style which lowered its currency in social media – there’s little value in sharing something people are seeing all over the TV. It’s also connected to the greater iteration and ‘localization’ of the Harlem Shake meme. This made its videos more relevant to hundreds of small local communities across the globe – so the Norwegian Army video was heavily shared in Norway, the Miami Heat video in the United States and so on. Essentially Harlem Shake had currency but didn’t have scale. Gangnam Style had less currency but had massive scale.
It’s a difficult balance for a meme to strike. Community drives Shareability but doesn’t give you Scale (Popularity). Top-down influence drives Scale (Popularity) but kills Shareability. While Shareability is a key requisite of virality, scale is what enables and sustains exponential growth.
7) Memes are like currencies: you need to balance accessibility (or ‘money supply’) and inflation. Gangnam Style became globally accessible through top-down mainstream sources (High Popularity), but this gave it high social inflation so it wasn’t valuable to share (Low Shareability). However, scale sustained its long term growth. Harlem Shake was not as easily accessible because it was driven more by small communities (Low Popularity), but for the same reason, being less easily accessible, it remained highly valuable (High Shareability). Lack of scale was what made Harlem Shake growth short-term and eventually killed it prematurely.
Conclusions: 8 things we learnt about how stuff spreads in social media
Based on what we’ve seen from studying the spread of the Gangnam Style and Harlem Shakes memes on Twitter, we see 8 common things to watch out to make things go viral:
- Bursts and Rises: 2 models of virality. The Burst model is bottom-up: the variations are more powerful then the original seed and there’s no clear leadership or narrative. The meme relies on community relevance to spread. The Rise model is top-down: the original seed is always stronger than its variations and has a clear leader dictating the narrative. Bursts spread widely more quickly but don’t endure.Rises spread more slowly and less widely but they tend to endure because the meme has a focal point. Chose your model of virality and plan accordingly.
- Triggers. Whatever the model, virality is triggered by surprise, cultural relevance to a community, and endorsement by a leader or the media.
- Waves. Whatever the trigger, virality is not a steady affair; it spreads in waves and spikes.
- Communities drive viral spread way more than influencers.
- Glocality. Memes transcend geography but a successful meme needs a balance of both local relevance and global appeal.
- Leadership. A meme needs a focal point to live longer. Virality is only sustained through a strong narrative and leadership.
- Slow and spikey wins the race. Weak ties and communities sustain for weeks but they don’t give you scale in the short term. Top-down media and celebrity endorsement gives you instant scale but burns out within a couple of days by decreasing the shareability of the meme.
- Memes are like currency: you need to balance supply (or accessibility) and inflation. In order to achieve high shareability and high popularity the meme supply has to be expansionary but strategically controlled so that it doesn’t negatively affect its shareability. This at the same time gives the meme the scale that can trigger and sustain exponential growth.
Originally posted on www.facegroup.com
Pulsar TRAC moves the marketing industry beyond social media monitoring www.pulsarplatform.com
Today we are unveiling Pulsar TRAC, an advanced social intelligence platform which pushes social media research beyond keyword tracking.
Born out of 10 years experience of research and planning with social data, Pulsar TRAC is built on a robust intelligence framework enabling marketers to do more than just keyword tracking: measuring the reach of conversations, mapping brand audiences and tracking content diffusion.
It solves many of the issues found in current social media monitoring tools, such as the obsession with volume-led metrics, the lack of demographic and behavioural context, no understanding of the audience, poor interfaces and the inability to weight the impact of conversations.
That’s why Pulsar TRAC is the only platform on the market currently that allows mining of big social data in four new ways:
1) Visibility measurement- estimate the reach of each post
2) Audience mapping – who are you talking to and what do they like
3) Content tracking – how does your content travel the social web
4) Advanced filtering – 14 behavioural, contextual and demographic filters to find exactly what you are looking for
“We’ve been really impressed with the speed and efficiency of Pulsar TRAC and its ability to provide real time actionable insight. We’re particularly excited about the audience mapping and content diffusion capabilities – they allow us to really target and understand specific groups of people in real-time.” - Jake Steadman, Head of Real Time Research at O2 Telefonica.
“Face’s Pulsar TRAC is invaluable for identifying real-time insight into the way that our audiences are engaging with content and stories. The key difference with PULSAR TRAC is that the platform offers a high quality social media insight system, supported by analysis that creates meaningful stories from the data with clear actionable steps for our business.” - Justin Wyatt, Vice President of Primary Research at NBC Universal.
Engineered for complexity, scale and speed, Pulsar’s Big Data engine is built on Apache Cassandra and Solr. This enables Pulsar TRAC to store and index multiple data points besides keyword mentions, including social graphs, interest graphs, demographics and behavioural data.
Our Chief Innovation Officer, Francesco D’Orazio, explains what drove the design of Pulsar TRAC:
“There are more than 200 social media monitoring tools on the market, and yet none of them allowed us to do proper research on social media data. And that’s why we built Pulsar TRAC. Whereas all traditional social media monitoring platforms on the market only look at the content of the conversations, we found a massive opportunity in indexing and analysing everything around it. This means very Big Data. But with Pulsar TRAC we can now process all that and still deliver on the real-time user experience which is key to exploiting Big Data’s real potential: finding out what you don’t know you don’t know.”
Our CEO, Andrew Needham, comments:
“With Pulsar TRAC we are delivering on our vision of social intelligence for brands by helping companies put consumers at the heart of their business, giving them a real time, in depth and holistic view of their customers. Having doubled in size in the past 12 months with offices in New York, Singapore and Hong Kong, Pulsar TRAC is the first in a series of planned product releases from Face which marks an evolution of the business from a research agency to a technology driven insight consultancy.”
The Pulsar TRAC platform, designed to deliver real-time insights for global brands and agencies, is now available at www.pulsarplatform.com.
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man might be lying.”
I heard the phrase above a few years ago and it stuck with me. It came from a planner, describing the sudden mad urge for brands to embrace social media. ‘Social Media Ninjas’ and ‘Engagement Gurus’ sprung up overnight, offering shadowy principles on how to tame this new beast, and were given credence simply by virtue of being young and au fait with a world many knew nothing about.
A few years later and social media is no longer the Wild West of the communications world. Books have been written, seminars held, a catechism of accepted practice has been disseminated around boardrooms across the world. But still social media proves unwieldy and unpredictable. What’s a marketer to do?
Image by Eboy
If you’ll excuse the tortured metaphor, I like to think about building a social media strategy as if it was building a house. Before you can even begin to think about what your house is going to look like, you need to know where it’s going to go and what function it’s going to serve. And to know that, you need to know who’s going to be using it. Time to call in the surveyors.
When trying to create a social media audit, or a survey of a current social media landscape, we employ a three-pronged approach; three separate streams of activity designed to feed into one holistic overview:
- Consumer Social Listening
- Brand Social Audit
- Competitor Social Analysis
1. Consumer Social Listening
This is a search for keywords and brands that are relevant to the category in general. The purpose of this stream is to let us know what role the category playa in the digital life of the consumer. Searches are set up around the world in relevant markets, in local languages, to track organic mentions of category-specific keywords and brand names across a search period of about one month. This would yield the answers to the following questions:
- Which specific topics do consumers talk about in relation to certain categories?
- How do they talk about these topics?
- Where do they talk about them?
- Who are the influencers in this category? What are the dynamics of these conversations?
- What role do brands play in these categories, if any?
This quick search is invaluable at giving an insight into how brands behave online, and how consumers interact with a category. We can uncover a category’s most salient topics, the areas of greatest need, and the less relevant aspects for consumers.
2. Brand Social Audit
After the internet-wide social listening search, we then do a manual and qualitative deep-dive into the client’s current online activities. By looking at the use of the brand in online conversations and discussions, we can uncover what role it plays in a consumer’s online life. The contexts in which they mention it, who they mention it to, where they mention it – all these factors are vital in determining the social cachet a brand has, and what function it can play in the lives of its users.
By looking at the type of content that customers engage with, and are willing to share with their personal networks of friends and peers, we can build a picture of the brand online, and begin to work out how the brand is being used and interacted with by its target market. This is the basis on which the digital team can start to design the architecture of its new online strategy.
3. Competitor Analysis
In Malvina Reynolds’ satirical anthem ‘Little Boxes’, she bemoans the proliferation of identikit maisonettes in America’s suburbs. And so it remains: variety is the spice of life. Through in-depth, qualitative analysis of competitor brands, we can provide detailed commentary on how to ensure a standout digital presence. We work to identify the positioning that most accurately reflects the needs and desires of the brand’s target audience.
Social media offers an unprecedented level of access and reciprocity between a brand and its users. The key to unlocking this is to find a territory where your fan or follower or subscriber is willing to engage with you, while remaining distinguishable from your competitors.
Originally posted on www.facegroup.com
6 STEPS TO A SOCIAL BUSINESS
Stage 1: Planning - “Listen to Learn”
The goal of this first stage is to ensure that there is a strong foundation for strategy development, organizational alignment, resource development, and execution.
Stage 2: Presence - “Stake Our Claim”
Staking a claim represents a natural evolution from planning to action. As you move along the journey, your experience establishes a formal and informed presence in social media.
Stage 3: Engagement - “Dialog Deepens Relationships”
When organizations move into this stage, they make a commitment where social media is no longer a “nice to “have” but instead, is seen as a critical element in relationship building.
Stage 4: Formalized - “Organize for Scale”
The risk of uncoordinated social initiatives is the main driver moving organizations into Stage 4, where a formalized approach focuses on three key activities: establishing an executive sponsor; creating a hub, a.k.a. a Center of Excellence (CoE); and establishing organization-wide governance. Organizations should plan for a potential CoE pitfall, however, as creating one may lead to scaling problems in the long-term.
Stage 5: Strategic - “Becoming a Social Business”
As organizations migrate along the maturity model, the social media initiatives gain greater visibility as they begin to have real business impact. This captures the attention of C-level executives and department heads who see the potential of social.
Stage 6: Converged - “Business is Social”
As a result of the cross-functional and executive support, social business strategies start to weave into the fabric of an evolving organization.
Original posted by Altimeter Group
Recent IBM report found while most companies are accelerating their social media plans, many are struggling to figure out what it all means.
IBM’s survey of 1,160 IT professionals shows that while 46% of the organizations increased their social technologies investments in 2012, only 22% believed that managers are prepared to incorporate social tools into their daily practices. In addition, two-thirds of respondents were not sure they sufficiently understood the impact that social technologies would have on their organizations over the next three years.
China’s Great Fire Wall has blocked out the Western social networks to a greater or lesser degree. But even without the West’s direct influence in the social networking scene, social networking in China has expanded, becoming an intrinsic part of many people’s lives. As Yin Mei said on Mashable, “Connections mean ‘power’ in China. This is why social networks have become part of the relationship-building fabric of Chinese society.”
Here are five specific reasons why brands should be participating in China’s social networking scene.
1. 300 million consumers using social media
China’s size makes it impossible to ignore. China has over 300 million social network users and that’s around only 58% of total internet users in the country. Given that the country’s total population is 1.34 billion, there is huge growth potential here. But of course, what people are doing on social networks is what makes this important.
You can accomplish a lot when you get a bunch of people together. One of China’s largest social networks, YY.com, has a virtual currency system that allows users to earn real money, perhaps even make a living off their skills. This could through be performing a virtual karaoke concert or giving college class tutorials.
2. Chinese social consumers are highly active
Chinese social networking users return to their social networks of choice much more frequently than those from any other country. According to a McKinsey survey, 91% of Chinese social network users claimed they had visited a social networking site in the last six months. Compare that to other Asian countries such as the ever-connected Japan at 30% or South Korea at 70%. Even in the US, the birthplace of Facebook and Twitter, only 67% of users said they had visited a social networking site in the past six months.
These consumers are online discussing and engaging with brands. Indeed on Sina Weibo, 27.5% of users reported searching for brand content. Not all of this content is good, though. Just like with Twitter, a single post can light up a firestorm of controversy. In late September a Starbucks opened by the Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou to the roar of controversy. The news was shared at least 4,000 times on Sina Weibo as people weighed in on how they felt about the juxtaposition of traditional Chinese culture and a symbol of foreign cultures.
3. They are spending online
Ecommerce is booming in China. China has 193 million online shoppers. That’s more than the US’s 170 million, and five times that of the UK, according to the Boston Consulting Group. But it’s still only 14% of the population. By 2015, China is expected to be the largest ecommerce economy with a projected size of $2.83 trillion spent by 300 million online consumers.
But we’re not looking at e-commerce business as usual. Homegrown players are innovating the space. Taobao is a leading consumer-to-consumer auction site like Ebay, but that’s where the similarity seems to end. Unlike Ebay, Taobao doesn’t make its money by charging sellers for listings and sales. Rather, it sells search rankings and personalized storefronts to sellers. Taobao also has a more community feel than Ebay in the US, with fashion and entertainment news as well as practical shopping tips. It’s a new kind of e-commerce.
4. They listen to social recommendations
Chinese consumers observe what others are doing very closely. They are more likely to consider a purchase if the product has been mentioned on a social media site. Around 60% claim that friends and family are a major source of product information. The basic logic is that if more people are using a product, the more likely it will work, not break, and not embarrass the user. Link this use of social media with the growing ecommerce market, and it’s not hard to see the opportunity.
To capitalize on this, Taobao lists products by popularity as a default. This provides users with the assurance that other people have tried out the product and that it works, encouraging sales. Due no doubt in part to this and other innovations, Taobao has a 90.3% stake in the consumer-to-consumer market.
5. Social consumers are not just urbanites
China’s native social networks are targeting more than just the affluent members of the urban elite (though they have their own network, too: P1.cn is invite only and just for the top 10% of earners). Tencent, a large social networking company, has three platforms that focus on people living in rural and second tier cities (those with more than 1 million residents but are not Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen – 1st tier cities).
These sites are huge, too. Qzone, which targets teens and rural users, has 597 million users. QQ, the instant messaging social network, has 784 million users and targets the same demographic. Social networking in China offers a wide range of audiences. Brands can pick which audiences they need to reach and move from there.