Marketers should promote their products and services on Twitter by influencing a multitude of ordinary consumers, rather than paying celebrities with high numbers of followers, said Duncan Watts, principal research scientist at Yahoo, in a keynote address at the SES Conference & Expo in New York on March 22. Watts said the influencers with the largest mouthpiece are not always the most cost-effective brand ambassadors.
“Potentially, anybody can influence somebody else,” he said. “The real thing you want to do is quantify that in terms of the outcome that you care about, and crank the handle as many times as possible so you can benefit from these small differences in average effects.”
However, Watts added that it is rare for content to go viral on Twitter. While large cascades of retweets tend to be triggered by Twitter users with many followers, 90% of tweets do not go anywhere.
“There’s no free lunch. There’s no magic. There are no special people out there who if you can convince them to say nice things about your brand will generate a social epidemic and change the world on your behalf,” said Watts. “You just have to grind away at it in a very systematic manner where you’re getting 1.2 retweets per every tweet that you introduce.”
He added that Twitter is an ideal platform to measure influence, adding that URL shorteners “allow us to see particular information propagate through the network, so this is extremely helpful for studying diffusion.”