Network Effects – A case study of ISIS

This week, I read this great article “Why ISIS is winning in the social media war”. And I think this is a great example of the network effects and how these impact the dissemination of ideas in the digital age.

Did you know: More than 30,000 people around the world have turned their backs on everything and travel thousands of miles to Syria or Iraq, where they were told a paradise awaits? Many people seduced by ISIS’s ideology are willing to die under the Islamic State’s name.

How did ISIS magically cultivate its ghastly brand and ideology in the hearts of potential recruits who even live in the US or Europe? This is what all media professionals wish they could do with their target audience.

How the magic happens?

I was still confused about those things until I read this article and The Diffusion of Innovative Theory this week.

ISIS has been so successful in using network effects and social media to spread its idea among internet users and rouse followers that al Qaeda could never reach. ISIS has clearly targeted specific Muslim enclaves throughout the world and defined who are the ‘opinion leaders’, ‘change agent’ and ‘adopters’ within those communities. Given the understanding of how these networks operate, ISIS, then, creates varied content that caters to niche audiences and facilitates the adoption of its ideology among those groups. This is explained in this great video!

These are examples how ISIS’s message has found a foothold among people who are struggling with their own idiosyncrasy within the US society. ISIS brand has become so ubiquitous. It has transformed into something like an open platform, upon which the desperate and deluded are connected and encouraged to contribute personal narratives of persecution.

ISIS is a great case study in terms of employing network effects to influence customers’ attitudes and behaviors.

Network Visualization

Nowadays, advances in technology make it easier for us as media professionals to analyze and exploit network effects by network visualization softwares. Network visualization helps us effectively navigate thought leaders and understand customer social influence. Thus, we can identify the dissemination of news around networks of people to make fast and cost-effective decisions.


Is there any risk using network visualization?

In a study about network analysis, McGrath and his colleagues conclude that care should be taken when using visual representations of networks. Varied graph layouts alter our judgment about the most prominent nodes within the networks, thus give us misconception about the network’s structure.

Despite all the pros and cons, I believe it’s worth for us as media professionals to explore and conquer the implementation of network visualization if we want our integrated marketing communication campaign to be as successful as ISIS’s.


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