Pump it Out! The Effect of Transmitter Activity on Content Propagation in Social Media
48 Pages Posted: 13 Jan 2017 Last revised: 7 Jul 2018
Date Written: January 1, 2017
People share billions of pieces of content such as news, videos, and photos through social media every day. Marketers are interested in the extent to which such content propagates and, importantly, which factors make widespread propagation more likely. Extant research considers various factors, such as content attributes (e.g., newness), source traits (e.g., expertise), and network structure (e.g., connectivity). This research builds on prior work by introducing a novel behavior-focused transmitter characteristic that is positively associated with content propagation in social media: activity, or how frequently a person transmits content. Evidence for this effect comes from five studies and different paradigms. First, two studies using data from large social media platforms (Twitter and LiveJournal) show that content posted by higher-activity transmitters—whom we refer to as “social pumps”—propagates more than content posted by lower-activity transmitters. Second, three experiments explore the behavioral mechanism underpinning this effect, showing that social media users receiving content from a social pump are more likely to retransmit it (a necessary behavior for achieving aggregate-level propagation) because they infer that content from a social pump is more likely to be current, and therefore more attractive as something to pass along through retransmission.
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