Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How Social Media Users Influence Others

I just watched a very interesting video from a sociology professor at Columbia University, Duncan Watts. He did a study on how the presence of "popularity" data on a website helped influence music downloads on a social networking site. In a nutshell, two different sites were created for the study, each with the same list of songs for downloading. However, one list of songs also showed the total number of downloads. Simply by listing which songs were more "popular" (higher number of downloads) greatly inflenced the behaviors of the social network users.

Check it out for yourself on this video:

Several of my blogging friends have wondered whether to show the number of subscribers to their blog. Some feel it shouldn't be done until a critical mass of subscribers has been reached. Others feel that there is benefit in showing the numbers in order to help "prove" that the blog is worth reading (if others are reading it, then you should, too!). I have chosen to show the number of subscribers to my Customers Rock! blog as I think it gives the site more credibility. The above study done by Mr. Watts helps to support my point of view.

In our class we have talked about the Critics, from Groundswell, that group of social media users who rate and review other sites. A company who has customers that are willing to rate and review should most likely embrace those customers and enable them to share their thoughts and ideas on the corporate site/blog. Even if the ratings and reviews are not all good, there is an opportunity to open up a dialogue with customers, right on the site, to look into and address any concerns. Being willing to be open, transparent, and honest is a key to social media success.

What do you think? Should blogs show the number of subscribers? Should companies showcase reviews of their own products and services? Let me know what you think!

(Hat tip to The Market Research Event blog for the info on Duncan Watts.)

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