The Anatomy of a Trend: Microsoft ViralSearch

In Search Technology by Marius Badenhorst

justice-leagueIf digital marketers were asked to name their preferred choice of hypothetical superpowers, the resulting list would most likely read like the collective resume of the Justice League (except for that dork Aquaman). Safe to say that in this fast-paced industry, speed, telepathy and of course precognition would be high on all our wish-lists. The ability to see the future would certainly be an advantage for anyone in our field – imagine being able to predict the latest online trend before it happens, and using that invaluable knowledge to structure your upcoming campaigns and strategies.

While superpowers may be the stuff of daydreams, the folks at Microsoft have donned their “thinking capes” and dreamed up a tool that could make us all feel like marketing heroes. I’m talking about ViralSearch, a research project designed to accurately determine which topics are destined to go viral at any given moment.

What Makes a Trend Viral?

The ViralSearch tool works in conjunction with Twitter, scanning and analysing millions of news articles, videos, photos and posts on the popular social network and using the collected data to determine the viral potential of the most prevalent topics. Even the most insightful among us struggle to really identify what makes one thing viral and another merely popular; but according to Microsoft’s Jake Hoffman, ViralSearch can tell the difference by analysing the various ways each topic is shared online.

An Introduction to Viral Search

ViralSearch also offers deeper insights into the effect a single user can have on the sharing of a topic – how one influential user can be a catalyst for a network-wide viral trend (and admittedly holding that kind of sway sounds like a real-life superpower we’d all like to have).

It’s still in the testing phase, but the thought of ViralSearch and similar insights tools is certainly an exciting one; it’s taken us one step closer to seeing the future of search today. Now if we could just convince Google to get to work on that telepathy thing – oh, wait a minute…

About the Author

Marius Badenhorst