Consumers who engage with trends may be less open to advertising than others

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One common assumption in digital marketing is that individuals who are mindful of what's trending on social media, and propagate these trends, will be responsive to social media advertising and marketing, thus sharing branded messages with their network on a wide scale. As a result, firms increasingly try to mesh their brand or product with an emerging trend to get the attention of those who propagate these trends. A new study conducted by researchers from London Business School, MIT Sloan School of Management, and Cass Business School at City, University of London, may change that assumption.

The study "Advertising to Early Trend Propagators: Evidence from Twitter," which will be published in the INFORMS journal Marketing Science, is co-authored by Anja Lambrecht of London Business School, Catherine Tucker of MIT Sloan School of Management, and Caroline Wiertz of Cass Business School.

The researchers found after extensive testing that, "early propagators of trends are less responsive to advertising than consumers who embrace trends later."

The study centered on how firms target marketing and advertising to consumers who are identified as embracing and propagating the spread of new information on emerging and "tending" topics on social media. What the researchers sought to clarify is whether those early trend propagators are truly responsive to firm-sponsored messages or advertising.

"We define early trend propagators as individuals predisposed to participate in an online conversation on a topic that is about to, or has just started, trending on social media," said Caroline Wiertz.


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