The Science of Popularity and the Growth of Community: Finding Common Ground


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 31, 2023

4 min read


The Science of Popularity and the Growth of Community: Finding Common Ground

In a world filled with distractions and ever-changing trends, it can be challenging to understand what makes something truly popular and how communities can continue to grow. Two separate sources shed light on these topics, offering valuable insights into the dynamics of popularity and the power of community.

Let's start by exploring the concept of "Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity." Derek Thompson, in his book of the same name, delves into the phenomenon of why certain products, songs, and movies become popular while others fade into obscurity. Thompson argues that familiarity trumps novelty and that people are drawn to new things that remind them of the past. This notion is evident in our love for songs with old chord structures, movies that are sequels or adaptations, and even the products we consume.

Thompson's research also highlights the importance of distribution over content. While emotional resonance and familiarity play a significant role in popularizing content, the strategy and mechanisms through which it is distributed are even more critical. It is not about a million one-to-one moments but rather a handful of one-to-one-million moments. In other words, it's about hitting the right sources and reaching a wide audience.

Repetition emerges as a vital factor in the success of music. Diana, an expert in the field, believes that repetition is the "god particle" of music. It is the element that transforms noise into a song in our brains. Our mammalian brains are wired to appreciate repetition and variety in a specific sequence, making it a powerful tool for creating catchy tunes.

Furthermore, the Rhyme to Reason effect suggests that we are more likely to believe ideas and slogans if they contain elements of rhyme and musicality. This highlights the connection between the human brain's affinity for patterns and its response to persuasive communication techniques. We are naturally drawn to things that engage our sense of rhythm and musicality.

Moving from the realm of popularity to the growth of communities, we encounter the concept of the "100人カイギ" (100-person gathering). This initiative demonstrates the power of self-discipline and community-driven events. The 100人カイギ is a gathering where each participant has a 10-minute talk time, allowing even those who are not famous or skilled speakers to share their thoughts effectively. The events are organized by enthusiastic members who are not professional event planners but rather individuals passionate about fostering a self-sustaining and decentralized community.

One crucial aspect of the 100人カイギ is that it requires a minimum of three individuals to come together and initiate the gathering. By starting with a small group, the community can gradually expand its reach. Additionally, the official website serves as a platform for like-minded individuals interested in organizing similar events to connect and share their experiences. This lowers the barrier to entry and encourages individuals with high enthusiasm to participate actively.

The success of the 100人カイギ lies in its finite nature. The organizers have set a limit of two new gatherings per month, ensuring that the community's core members can sustain their motivation and energy. Without a clear endpoint, communities often struggle to maintain their momentum, especially when faced with changes in leadership or shifts in individual members' life stages. The ability to consistently organize 20 similar events is a remarkable achievement, as many communities often fizzle out before reaching that milestone.

Examining both the science of popularity and the growth of communities, we can identify common points that connect these seemingly distinct topics. Familiarity, repetition, and identity play vital roles in both scenarios. The human brain is wired to appreciate and respond positively to familiar elements, whether in music or the content it consumes. Repetition reinforces these elements and provides the brain with a pattern to latch onto, making the content more memorable and enjoyable.

Moreover, identity plays a significant role in both popularity and community growth. People crave a sense of belonging and often define their identities in opposition to others. This antagonistic nature of identity formation drives individuals to seek out communities that align with their values and interests. To sell something surprising, it must be made familiar, and to sell something familiar, it must be made surprising, aligning with the delicate balance between neophilia and neophobia.

Drawing from these insights, here are three actionable pieces of advice for those looking to create popular content or foster community growth:

  • 1. Embrace familiarity: Understand your audience and find ways to incorporate familiar elements into your content or community. Tap into their nostalgia and provide a sense of comfort while offering something fresh and exciting.
  • 2. Harness the power of repetition: Whether in music or communication, repetition creates patterns that the brain craves. Use this to your advantage by incorporating repetition strategically in your content, slogans, or event formats.
  • 3. Foster a sense of identity: Communities thrive when individuals can relate to and differentiate themselves from others. Create a space where members can express their unique identities while finding common ground, ultimately strengthening the community's bonds.

In conclusion, understanding the science of popularity and the dynamics of community growth requires a careful examination of human psychology and behavior. Familiarity, repetition, and identity are key factors that shape our preferences and drive our engagement. By incorporating these elements into our content and community-building efforts, we can increase our chances of creating something truly popular and fostering sustainable growth.

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