Why network theory is important to your transmedia project

Social Media Prism by birgerking

Net­work the­ory can help explain why users are shar­ing on which social media

Lots of peo­ple are talk­ing about cross-platform, trans­me­dia, wave-of-the-future projects. So what? With­out an audi­ence, you’re just spin­ning your wheels. There are other prod­ucts out there, being seen by mil­lions of people.

But just how are these things get­ting expo­sure? Can a per­son fig­ure out why things go viral? How? Can a savvy pro­ducer (or said producer’s mar­ket­ing team) “make” some­thing go viral using known formulas?

Short answers: net­works, yes, net­work the­ory, and kinda-sorta-not-really.

When I say “net­work,” most web cit­i­zens will think social media. Which is not (entirely) what I mean. I’m talk­ing about the math­e­mat­i­cal analy­sis of networks–how they develop, their var­i­ous struc­tures, and how those struc­tures affect the mechan­ics of inter­ac­tion between indi­vid­u­als within them.

But how is this specif­i­cally a trans­me­dia thing, as opposed to a film thing (or a music thing, or…)?

It’s not. Specif­i­cally. And yet it is. Also specifically.

WTH?” you may be think­ing. So let me clar­ify: while using net­work the­ory to help you in your mar­ket­ing mod­el­ing and analy­sis is a good idea for all projects, a multi-platform project can ben­e­fit even more by specif­i­cally tai­lor­ing said mar­ket­ing to each and every plat­form you use. To wit: con­tent con­sumers use their phones dif­fer­ently than they use their lap­tops, which is dif­fer­ent than they use their TVs. Even within social media, this is true–using Face­book as an app is not the same expe­ri­ence as using it on a web browser. How users inter­act with their social net­works on each of these plat­forms affects how they find and share con­tent–your con­tent. Know­ing the mechan­ics behind these dif­fer­ences will give you insight into why some things work bril­liantly well on one SM plat­form, but falls flat on another.

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