The Matthew Effect in Social Media

Why do seemingly inane videos like "Charlie Bit My Finger" have SO MANY views? It's the Matthew Effect in action.

Why do seemingly inane videos like "Charlie Bit My Finger" have SO MANY views? It's the Matthew Effect in action.

Famous for being famous. New followers because you have so many already. To those who have shall be given more.

We call this the Matthew Effect. From the Bible: 

For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. — Matthew 25:29
Algorithms tend to favour already-popular content. And we already know how persuasive popularity is. 

Via Wikipedia:

In the sociology of science, "Matthew effect" was a term coined by Robert K. Merton to describe how, among other things, eminent scientists will often get more credit than a comparatively unknown researcher, even if their work is similar; it also means that credit will usually be given to researchers who are already famous. For example, a prize will almost always be awarded to the most senior researcher involved in a project, even if all the work was done by a graduate student. This was later formulated by Stephen Stigler as Stigler's law of eponymy — "No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer" — with Stigler explicitly naming Merton as the true discoverer, making his "law" an example of itself.

Merton furthermore argued that in the scientific community the Matthew effect reaches beyond simple reputation to influence the wider communication system, playing a part in social selection processes and resulting in a concentration of resources and talent. He gave as an example the disproportionate visibility given to articles from acknowledged authors, at the expense of equally valid or superior articles written by unknown authors. He also noted that the concentration of attention on eminent individuals can lead to an increase in their self-assurance, pushing them to perform research in important but risky problem areas.

So How Do You Beat the Matthew Effect

The Matthew Effect is not something you can beat, it's something you can use. Unfortunately it's true that it is harder to gain attention when you start. But it is also your best opportunity to be Surprising. 

This is why we work with the Hot Content model to develop social momentum.