Effect of Popularity Shocks on User Behavior

Users often post on content-sharing platforms in the hope of attracting high engagement from viewers. Some posts receive unusual attention and go "viral", eliciting a significant response (likes, views, shares) to the creator in the form of \textit{popularity shocks}. Past theories have suggested a sense of reputation as one of the key drivers of online activity and the tendency of users to repeat fruitful behaviors. Based on these, we theorize popularity shocks to be linked with changes in the behavior of users. In this paper, we propose a framework to study the changes in user activity in terms of frequency of posting and content posted around popularity shocks. Further, given the sudden nature of their occurrence, we look into the survival durations of effects associated with these shocks. We observe that popularity shocks lead to an increase in the posting frequency of users, and users alter their content to match with the one which resulted in the shock. Also, it is found that shocks are tough to maintain, with effects fading within a few days for most users. High response from viewers and diversification of content posted is found to be linked with longer survival durations of the shock effects. We believe our work fills the gap related to observing users' online behavior exposed to sudden popularity and has widespread implications for platforms, users, and brands involved in marketing on such platforms.

Omkar Gurjar, Tanmay Bansal, Hitkul, Hemank Lamba, and Ponnurangam Kumaraguru. Effect of Popularity Shocks on User Behavior. Accepted at International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media (ICWSM) 2022.