You might have noticed this on your internal social network platforms — some posts are read, liked and commented by many people; among these posts, some may last for a day and some for weeks. For the uninitiated, this is called trending – a topic that gets more attention and surfaces to the top of the community. I was wondering about the science, if any, behind the trending posts on social platforms . Some of the questions running on my mind were:
1) Why some topics trend and others don’t
2) Two people post same topic but only one starts trending
3) Some topics trend for short period and some trend for surprisingly longer period
So, I set out to see if there is any research work in this area. As expected some research papers are available on this topic – trending, persistence and decay of topics, novelty and collective intelligence. Most of the research is done on social media, not in enterprise. However, I assume the basic, online social behaviour may not be drastically different in enterprise from that of social media. Or, these studies might throw light to some of the above-mentioned questions.Here are some points in these research papers that may give answers to the questions in discussion.
On Trending – A post trends if the content of the post finds resonance with the users, that is creates an association or emotion with the users. One such example is the post on dress code. Does the author matter? One paper says that “We find that traditional notions of user influence such as the frequency of posting and the number of followers are not the main drivers of trends, as previously thought. ”
Persistence and decay – The length of time a post lasts before dying
There is considerable evidence that one aspect that causes topics to decay over time is their novelty. Another factor responsible for their decay is the competitive nature of the medium.
As content starts propagating through a social network it can usurp the positions of earlier topics of interest, and due to the limited attention of users it is soon rendered invisible by newer content.
When it first comes out, the story catches the attention of a few, who may further pass it on to others if they find it interesting enough. If a lot of people start to pay attention to this story, its exposure in the media will continue to increase. In other words, a positive-reinforcement effect sets in such that the more popular the story becomes, the faster it spreads.