This is a guest post by Dan Zarrella, social and viral marketing scientist. He has put together a viral content sharing report and below is an expansion and exploration of some of the data uncovered by that report.
The research I did on viral content sharing shows that frequent users of social web technologies like Twitter, blogs, and social news and networking sites tend to share online content with more people, more often than those that do not. This means that for marketers these users can be a powerful vector for making content go viral.
While this may sound like some what of a “duh” statement, the concept of “influencers” has been much debated recently. While there is data that individuals give more attention to content passed to them from friends as opposed to A-list bloggers, the fact still remains that there are segments of users who spread content more prolifically than the rest. And by their very nature as savvy social media users, these viewers engage in online activity that makes them easy to target.
We know that people who read Digg, Reddit, Propeller and the like tend to have higher viral reach and sharing frequency than those who do not, so make sure your content appears on these sites. The same applies to those who read blogs, and use Twitter. When it comes time to seed your content, be sure to put it in the path of these extra-contagious users.
An interesting detail of this data is that while frequent users of Facebook and web forums share content with more people and more often in some aspects, generally they’re not as virulent as the users of less-mainstream technologies (with the exception of blog readers). This may be due to the fact that users of sites like Twitter and Digg tend to be early adopters, as opposed to the less-geeky Facebook audience; which seems to indicate that geeks share more content online than non-geeks.
When I segmented these high reach and frequency users, I found that they displayed useful preference trends. When compared to average web users they share more content via IM as opposed to email or Facebook messaging, and they share more news and opinion than humor. When these users share content one-to-one with their friends, they prefer blogs and social news sites to mainstream sites, but that aversion to mainstream media disapears when they share in a one-to-many fashion (broadcast sharing like submitting to Digg, blogging and Tweeting). Again as these users are important viral seeding vectors, we should listen to their preferences and give them news or opinion with short, clean links ideal for instant messaging, and lay off the “funny” email chain letters.
This is a small part of the large data presented in the full report I did on the results of my survey, if you want to know more, be sure to read the rest of my viral content sharing report.