Diffusion on Niche Social Media Sites: The Dribbble Project

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This project, led by Center Co-Director Jeff Hemsley and VPA Professor Rebecca Kelly, studies the shift in information diffusion from large social media sites to niche social media sites. Information diffusion studies have mainly focused on sites like YouTube and, recently, Twitter. However, much less work has been done on the more than 400 smaller social media sites that tend to serve niche interests like art, music and academia. Hemsley’s project studies information diffusion on these niche social media sites through mixed methods, including interviews and computational work. The purpose of this work is to understand how diffusion is similar and different across a wide range of sites. 

This research looks at the social media site Dribbble, a niche networking site for artists and designers with over 600,000 users. Using a mixed-method approach, they explore virality from a user-centric perspective. Interviews with informants confirm that viral-like events do exist on Dribbble, though what spreads are different. Through these interviews researchers identify the measures and possible driving factors of viral-like events. While what spreads is different than on other platforms, this work suggests that the measures and mechanics that drive these events are similar. This similarity reflects the same fundamental human behavior underlying social phenomenon across different platforms. Results are supported by regression modeling using variables identified by research informants. The work contributes to social media studies since smaller sites like Dribbble are rarely studied, particularly using mixed methods approaches, as well as to the body of research around information diffusion and viral events. Future work will include looking at diffusion on other niche site areas, like music or academic social networks.


For more information about this research, contact Jeff Hemsley (jjhemsle@syr.edu). 


Hemsley Dribbble