From a group psychology perspective, social media marketing and branding share a lot of similarities with propaganda techniques. Propaganda-just the word evokes steely images of communist leaders’ outsized images plastered on huge outdoor walls as massive squads of goose stepping soldiers march by in tightly synchronized groups to the mechanical applause of a huge crowd. The truth is that propaganda techniques can be found, in one form or another and one level or another, in any well-coordinated and well-sculpted marketing campaign. It is the level of obvious manipulation that separates typical Madison Avenue marketing from totalitarian mind control. No wonder then that researchers from Georgia Tech have discovered that Twitter marketing mirrors some propaganda techniques.
Researchers say Twitter propagandists spout the same ideology or opinion and send huge volumes of otherwise repeated messages. Moreover, they quickly retweet tweets that share their own core message and they don’t add much original commentary As a result, the same cadre of people tend to send out essentially the same mass of information.
How did Georgia Tech’s researchers come up with their findings? The group studied around 100,000 tweets starting with the 2010 Nevada Senate race all the way to the 2011 debate about the federal debt ceiling. Employing filtering algorithms, the researchers grouped Twitter users who have similar political ideologies then zeroed in on specific users who are highly active in disseminating ideological information.
The researchers say that their findings can help open a window in how propagandists use new media to shape opinion and to change how the public filters and processes information. In essence, the people who present information a certain way can, depending on whether you agree with their viewpoint, distort the facts or emphasize/deemphasize facts in such a way as to generate a particular viewpoint in the consumers of media information. This is exactly how classical propagandists shape public opinion.