Phil at Blonde and Fran at Face Group have created a visualisation of the spread of a piece of video content from their client IRN BRU that tells a fascinating story of how it was shared on Twitter and clocked up a million views over four weeks. The tracking revealed three key sharing dynamics: a few high influence accounts that kick-started the initial 100,000 views in the first 24 hours, followed by sharing amongst lots of small, connected groups that took it from 100,000 to 650,000, and then another 300,000 views prompted by broadcast media and accompanying isolated mentions.
Their conclusions make a lot of sense: It helps if you have awesome content; influencer theory is useful but only up to a point; lots of small networks are more important than a few individuals with lots of followers; social and broadcast channels play complementary roles. Every case will no doubt have its own differences and subtleties but this neatly shows the limitations of oversimplified thinking about 'influencers' and considering vertical channels in isolation.
There's something else interesting about it as well. Conventional campaigning wisdom sees heavy spend front loaded and designed to generate high awareness, reach or impact in the first days of a campaign. This IRN BRU activity started with just one person being given the link. It reminded me of the way in which The XX launched Coexist by sharing a link (to a site where you could stream it before its official release) with a single fan. That ended up with fan-driven campaigns on Reddit and the site crashing from the millions of streams.
Mark Earls and John Willshire make the point in their excellent Future Of Advertising deck that we need to develop a far better understanding of how stuff spreads through populations. So work like this is, I think, fascinating.