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The Bandwagon Effect: Why Social Media Marketing is So Powerful

“Social media” is all the rage nowadays in marketing. Companies are quick to post their promotions on web outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. In fact, entire positions have been created for the sole purpose of managing these accounts. If you have ever surfed start-up strategy blogs, you will probably come across several articles detailing “9 Essential Social Media Strategies”. You may wonder: why is social media marketing so popular, and is it really that effective?

According to this article from Forbes, the answer is: yes, and it can be explained by the bandwagon effect. The bandwagon is a well-known psychological phenomena confirmed in experiments (such as The Asch Conformity Experiments) in which a large proportion of people who adopt some action increases the probability that another individual adopts the same action, regardless of individual beliefs. A recent university study show that study shows “a positive correlation (by a factor of 2 or more) between the propensity for a person to click the “like” button on a post where they see more than a handful of likes are already there.” These likes are extremely valuable for a business, as they can sway purchase decisions and greatly affect the amount of exposure businesses receive on search engines. Groupon has observed that “deals that pick up steam tend to accelerate even faster as the ‘bought’ numbers increase”.

The power of social media marketing therefore has a concrete psychological and mathematical basis. The bandwagon effect is not only an accepted psychological phenomenon; it also finds mathematical grounding in the concept of information cascades. Information cascades provide a mathematical explanation for the tendency of people to ignore their own private information in favor of the trends of behavior that they observe.


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