How big brands determine what’s popular

Individual influencers can do a lot, but the touch of a corporate social media account is what can really send something into the stratosphere.

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We practice a healthy dose of skepticism whenever we encounter something new. The reality, however, is we’re more easily influenced than we would care to admit, to the point where we have to ask whether something is popular because it’s good or just because it’s popular.

That question has been highlighted by research recently published in the journal Science, which looks at the behavior of people reading online comments. Reported by The New York Times, it confirmed the obvious fact that if you approve an article, either by “liking” it or sharing it, someone who reads it is more likely to do the same, regardless of its quality.

So far, so predictable, but a surprising finding relating to negative responses emerged. A negative reaction to an article won’t cause people to dislike it. Instead, it will result in others’ giving it a positive review instead.

If the findings show anything, it’s just how easy we’re swayed by “popular” opinion. This is problematic when you consider how something goes viral in the first place.

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