How do I find powerful seeders?

Written by on Friday, March 23, 2012

Using social media to brand yourself might seem like a cheap and effective option compared to traditional TV ads. But it has also created a headache for marketing agencies. If we can no longer pay for an audience, how do we get people to watch?

Seeding is the act of identifying influential people in a social network and getting them to spread your content to their friends. A recent study by Hema Yoganarasimhan (2011) investigates the characterizes of influential seeders by measuring the success of a large number of videos and analyzing what factors lead to increased views.

Unsurprisingly, the size of a person’s network is an important determinant of a video’s popularity. The more friends in one’s network the larger the initial gain in popularity. But the number of second-degree connections (friends of friends) was found to be more important in generating a wider popularity. Therefore, successful seeding requires that we look at not only the size of a person’s network, but also the size of her friend’s networks.

The number of views generated by choosing seeders randomly (green) versus choosing those with the largest number of friends (red) is plotted below. The results point to a significant increase in the reach of the video when using seeders with a large number of friends on YouTube.

Comparison of viewership

Source: Yoganarasimhan (2011)

But simply looking at the number of friends won’t tell the whole story. The study also finds that network position can have a significant impact of how well the video spreads. User with a tight knit followership will have an initial growth advantage over more diverse networks.The long term growth of the video’s popularity is however impaired as it spreads much slower outside of the friend clusters. Interestingly, ratings and comments are found to have no impact on the long run popularity of a video.

In an environment were earned media is getting more important, getting the right seeds (e.g. YouTube users) on your side to spread your message can the difference between success and failure.

The Ford Fiesta Movement is one example of successful seeding. 100 video bloggers were given a Ford Fiesta and then asked to document their experiences using social media. It was a huge hit, generating 6.2 million views on YouTube alone.

Seeds who have well connected friends will have the greatest long term impact as the video spreads through the network. Have you thought about using seeding in your social media marketing? Let us know in the comments.

Source: Yoganarasimhan, H. (2011). Impact of social network structure on content propagation: A study using YouTube data. Quantitative marketing and economics , 111-150.

About the author

Erik Johansson is KLOK's in-house analyst and statistician. He writes about online analytics and shares insights from the video site The Kick Network. He is also the editor and project manager of Kick, a video blog about startups and technology.