Type: Other

Sharing Influence

A media maker's guide to online social networks



The Challenge

The ways in which audiences share, discuss, and consume entertainment have changed. People respond to television on Twitter and get movie recommendations from their friends on Facebook. These online social networks provide unprecedented access for researchers to observe and measure the influence of entertainment. “Likes,” retweets, and Klout scores promise a more precise understanding of influence, but without context, their value is limited. When we work with media makers, funders, nonprofits, and social activists, they ask us which of these influence metrics matter. In this research note we survey recent social science research on influence in online social networks.


The Approach

At the Harmony Institute, we are committed to developing an empirical understanding of the impact of entertainment. Instead of relying on proprietary scores or black box metrics, we turned to recent social science research. Drawing on a wide range of disciplinary frameworks (from network science, to marketing, to political science) we identified six themes that describe how entertainment and ideas are adopted in online social networks. These themes go beyond metrics to explore the structures, behaviors, and social norms that drive influence.


The Results

Sharing Influence: Understanding the influence of entertainment in online social networks will help media makers and those who support them understand the new social and technical contexts of influence. This research note explores the current state of the field and looks forward to challenges and possibilities for further inquiry. We welcome questions and comments addressed to info@harmony-institute.org