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Going viral takes a posse, not an army

Dedicated followers spread the word online

When it comes to going viral online, it’s not how many people you know but who they are, a new study suggests. An analysis of the social networking tool Twitter concludes that having a lot of followers isn’t as important to Internet exposure as having discriminating followers to pass the message on.

The results suggest that those trying to communicate through social networking, be they politicians, advertising executives or philanthropic organizations, shouldn’t focus their efforts on targeting the masses. Target the influential, and the masses will come.

“It’s not only the numbers, the quantity of your audience, but also the quality of your audience,” says study coauthor Wojciech Galuba, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne.

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