Sinan Aral

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Global Authority on Business Analytics and How Information Spreads Through Social Networks; Award-winning Researcher; Entrepreneur and Venture Capitalist; Director of MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy and Social Analytics Lab; Author, “The Hype Machine” (2020)

Biography

In order to successfully compete in today’s rapidly changing digital marketplace, organizations must have a deep understanding of business analytics – which is why companies like Microsoft, Facebook and WeChat tap the expertise of award-winning researcher, data scientist and MIT professor Sinan Aral. Since he is also a successful entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Aral offers organizations both a scientific and real-world perspective on how to gain a competitive edge using information acquired through digital networks.

Aral is the David Austin Professor of Management, IT, Marketing and Data Science at MIT. As an advisor and speaker, he teaches organizations how to read and leverage analytics to build business, make better decisions and plan forward – whether they are selling products or services, promoting causes or trying to prevent hacking, disinformation, fraud or election interference.

“The key to effectively interpreting and acting on the data is rigor,” says Aral. “I focus on the rigorous scientific work which is really the engine of everything else.”

In his role as Director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy (IDE) and its Social Analytics Lab, Aral is immersed in analyzing patterns of online behavior, from social media platforms to online retail sites. He has helped leading Fortune 500 firms, including Twitter, Yahoo, AirBnB, Jet.com, IBM, Intel, Cisco, Oracle and SAP realize business value from big data analytics, social media and IT investments. He also helps leaders understand the relationship between humans and machines and how artificial intelligence can play a role in advancing innovation.

Much of Aral’s shapeshifting work and insights are shared in new book, “The Hype Machine: How Social Media Disrupts Our Elections, Our Economy, and Our Health–and How We Must Adapt” (Penguin Random House, September 2020), which is poised to be a best-seller and must-read for leaders at every level of management. Twenty years in the making, the book discusses – among other timely topics – the insidious ways social media is disrupting our elections, our economies and our lives and what we can do about it. The importance of “The Hype Machine” in an election year cannot be underestimated, and during a recent TED talk the author drives that point home.

Aral’s work reaches far beyond business applications to societal issues, like the effects of social media on a child’s brain, how social media is disrupting society and ways to combat fake news. And on the public health front he is currently studying behavioral patterns related to COVID-19 so providers and policy makers can be better informed when making decisions around safeguarding populations.

The common thread weaving through all of Sinan Aral’s work is problem-solving – and his belief in the power of analytics to reveal the answers is unwavering.

# # #

Sinan Aral is a scientist, entrepreneur, investor and founding partner at Manifest Capital. He was the Chief Scientist at SocialAmp, one of the first social commerce analytics companies (until its sale to Merkle in 2012) and at Humin, a social platform that the Wall Street Journal called the first “Social Operating System” (until its sale to Tinder in 2016). He is currently on the Advisory Boards of the Alan Turing Institute, the British National Institute for Data Science in London, the Centre for Responsible Media Technology and Innovation in Bergen, Norway and C6 Bank, one of the first all-digital banks of Brazil.

Aral’s research and teaching have won numerous awards including the Microsoft Faculty Fellowship, the PopTech Science Fellowship, an NSF CAREER Award, a Fulbright Scholarship, the Jamieson Award for Teaching Excellence (MIT Sloan’s highest teaching honor) and more than ten best paper awards conferred by his colleagues in research. In 2014, he was named one of the “World’s Top 40 Business School Professors Under 40” and the year before he was the Scholar-in-Residence at the New York Times.

In 2018, Aral became the youngest ever recipient of the Herbert Simon Award of Rajk László College in Budapest, Hungary. In that same year his article on the spread of false news online ended up on the cover of Science magazine, a piece Altmetrics called the second most influential publication of the year.

Aral is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Northwestern University, holds Master’s degrees from the London School of Economics and Harvard University and received his PhD from MIT.

Sinan Aral is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Videos

Media

5G, Disney and All Things Social Media (Audio)

October 15, 2020

Disinfo As A Public Health Crisis: The Parallels Between COVID-19 Misinformation And The 2019 Measles Outbreak

October 9, 2020

WGBH logo

How Social Media Has Changed Society

October 9, 2020

The Economist logo

Reality Wreck-Misinformation and How the Trust Became a Partisan Issue (Audio)

October 2, 2020

Breaking Up Facebook Won’t Fix Social Media

September 30, 2020

Conversations with CISR: Prof. Sinan Aral, Author of the Hype Machine (Video)

September 28, 2020

Why Social Media Has Changed the World - and How to Fix It

September 24, 2020

The Hype Machine: Why Social Media Has Changed the World — And How to Fix It

September 24, 2020

The Hype Machine: Political Implications of the Social Media Industrial Complex, with Prof. Sinan Aral (Audio)

September 20, 2020

Hitting the Books: How Social Media Keeps Us Clicking

September 19, 2020

The Next 24 Months are 'Critical', We 'Don't Have Any More Time to Waste': MIT Prof. on Social Media

September 15, 2020

Inside the Hype Machine (Audio)

September 15, 2020

The Truth About Social Media: the Hope, the Hype, the Harm

September 15, 2020

In It Together (Audio)

September 14, 2020

Can We Amplify the Good and Contain the Bad of Social Media?

September 14, 2020

Ian Somerhalder Wants You to Read "The Hype Machine"

September 12, 2020

The Hype Machine: A Warning for Our Times

September 11, 2020

The Stakes of Social Media Have Never Been Higher

September 10, 2020

Russian Fake News is Back. Do These Four Things to Help Save the Election from Foreign Interference ($)

September 9, 2020

The Hype Machine: The Promise and the Peril of Social Media (Audio)

September 4, 2020

Chatting with... Sinan Aral

August 25, 2020

Los Angeles Times logo

Op-Ed: If States Don't Coordinate Lockdown Procedures Immediately, Our Future is Grim

August 9, 2020

WGBH logo

New MIT Study Shows the Cost of the Patchwork Response to Coronavirus In the US (Video)

May 21, 2020

MIT Sloan School Appoints Sinan Aral to Lead the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy

March 4, 2020

MIT Has a Plan to Measure the Impact of 2016 Election Interference

September 7, 2019

MIT Offers a New Way to Protect Elections From Social Media Interference, Foreign Meddling

September 3, 2019

We Need to Protect Democracy: MIT Professor (Video)

August 31, 2019

Are Social Media Misinformation Campaigns Affecting Elections? MIT Researchers Say There's a Way Out ($)

August 30, 2019

Measuring the Impact of Social Media Manipulation on Elections

August 30, 2019

Protecting Elections from Social Media Manipulation

August 30, 2019

A 4-Step Plan for Fighting Social Media Manipulation in Elections

August 29, 2019

Truth Disrupted

July, 2018

Social Influence Maximization Under Empirical Influence Models

May 21, 2018

The Spread of True and False News Online

March 9, 2018

Information Technology, Repeated Contracts and the Number of Suppliers

March 15, 2017

A-Z Name

Aral, Sinan

Biography

In order to successfully compete in today’s rapidly changing digital marketplace, organizations must have a deep understanding of business analytics – which is why companies like Microsoft, Facebook and WeChat tap the expertise of award-winning researcher, data scientist and MIT professor Sinan Aral. Since he is also a successful entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Aral offers organizations both a scientific and real-world perspective on how to gain a competitive edge using information acquired through digital networks.

Aral is the David Austin Professor of Management, IT, Marketing and Data Science at MIT. As an advisor and speaker, he teaches organizations how to read and leverage analytics to build business, make better decisions and plan forward – whether they are selling products or services, promoting causes or trying to prevent hacking, disinformation, fraud or election interference.

“The key to effectively interpreting and acting on the data is rigor,” says Aral. “I focus on the rigorous scientific work which is really the engine of everything else.”

In his role as Director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy (IDE) and its Social Analytics Lab, Aral is immersed in analyzing patterns of online behavior, from social media platforms to online retail sites. He has helped leading Fortune 500 firms, including Twitter, Yahoo, AirBnB, Jet.com, IBM, Intel, Cisco, Oracle and SAP realize business value from big data analytics, social media and IT investments. He also helps leaders understand the relationship between humans and machines and how artificial intelligence can play a role in advancing innovation.

Much of Aral’s shapeshifting work and insights are shared in new book, “The Hype Machine: How Social Media Disrupts Our Elections, Our Economy, and Our Health–and How We Must Adapt” (Penguin Random House, September 2020), which is poised to be a best-seller and must-read for leaders at every level of management. Twenty years in the making, the book discusses – among other timely topics – the insidious ways social media is disrupting our elections, our economies and our lives and what we can do about it. The importance of “The Hype Machine” in an election year cannot be underestimated, and during a recent TED talk the author drives that point home.

Aral’s work reaches far beyond business applications to societal issues, like the effects of social media on a child’s brain, how social media is disrupting society and ways to combat fake news. And on the public health front he is currently studying behavioral patterns related to COVID-19 so providers and policy makers can be better informed when making decisions around safeguarding populations.

The common thread weaving through all of Sinan Aral’s work is problem-solving – and his belief in the power of analytics to reveal the answers is unwavering.

# # #

Sinan Aral is a scientist, entrepreneur, investor and founding partner at Manifest Capital. He was the Chief Scientist at SocialAmp, one of the first social commerce analytics companies (until its sale to Merkle in 2012) and at Humin, a social platform that the Wall Street Journal called the first “Social Operating System” (until its sale to Tinder in 2016). He is currently on the Advisory Boards of the Alan Turing Institute, the British National Institute for Data Science in London, the Centre for Responsible Media Technology and Innovation in Bergen, Norway and C6 Bank, one of the first all-digital banks of Brazil.

Aral’s research and teaching have won numerous awards including the Microsoft Faculty Fellowship, the PopTech Science Fellowship, an NSF CAREER Award, a Fulbright Scholarship, the Jamieson Award for Teaching Excellence (MIT Sloan’s highest teaching honor) and more than ten best paper awards conferred by his colleagues in research. In 2014, he was named one of the “World’s Top 40 Business School Professors Under 40” and the year before he was the Scholar-in-Residence at the New York Times.

In 2018, Aral became the youngest ever recipient of the Herbert Simon Award of Rajk László College in Budapest, Hungary. In that same year his article on the spread of false news online ended up on the cover of Science magazine, a piece Altmetrics called the second most influential publication of the year.

Aral is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Northwestern University, holds Master’s degrees from the London School of Economics and Harvard University and received his PhD from MIT.

Sinan Aral is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Speech Topics

For a more in-depth understanding of these topics, book an interactive workshop or confidential advisory meeting with Professor Aral.

The Hype Machine: Adapting to Disruptions Brought on By Social Media

The initial excitement around digital technologies and all the opportunities they offer has been tempered by increasing concerns about Internet hacking and online crime. The potential dangers are highly consequential, from identity theft and election interference to system-wide crashes within companies, institutions and even global financial markets. Despite such concerns, however, technology continues to offer vast opportunities, especially when it comes to reaching audiences and driving growth. So how do we leverage the best of what technology has to offer while protecting businesses, governments and individuals from unwanted infiltration? Based on his eagerly anticipated book, “The Hype Machine” (Penguin Random House, September 2020), Sinan Aral outlines the challenges and offers solutions to some of the biggest problems facing society, especially businesses and governments.

“Block and Tackle” Digital Marketing

There’s a science and a strategy to engineering a successful digital marketing campaign, says Sinan Aral. He is continuously engaged in rigorous studies around the use of data to produce desired outcomes online. As for his strategy, he uses what he calls a “block and tackle” approach when helping organizations interpret and leverage their analytics so their brands stand out, their messages are heard and they can position themselves to outpace competition. During this presentation, Aral enthusiastically shares his masterful tactics and high-level insights, some of which he covers in his eagerly anticipated book, “The Hype Machine” (Penguin Random House, September 2020), which will be a must-read for organizational leaders in every sector.

Leveraging the Science Behind Business Analytics

Successful business operations rely on the accurate interpretation and strategic usage of analytics, and no one is more of an expert at reading and leveraging data than Sinan Aral. Even some “digital specialists” struggle to understand the deeper workings of business analytics, the importance of interpreting them correctly and the value that can be uncovered by looking at the data from different angles – all of which helps set up the next move in a business plan or digital campaign. Much like a boxer, Aral’s strategic approach involves making that move at just the right time, after reading and optimizing findings. This lively discussion offers participants the opportunity to work with the “Floyd Mayweather” of business analytics.

Media Giants and Anti-Trust Laws: What Should be Done

Companies like Facebook and Amazon have been under intense scrutiny due to their size, power and influence. Yet it is difficult to control the activities of such digital giants with current anti-trust laws, most of which were written before the Internet went mainstream. Sinan Aral has a deep understanding of the digital media business. During this presentation, he will discuss existing and potential regulations and why it makes sense to break up some companies but not others.

 

Media

Array

Books & Research

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Recommendations

Advance Praise for “The Hype Machine”

“Top 10 Business and Economics Books for Fall 2020!”

– Publishers Weekly

“Aral’s arguments are clear and stimulating, and as the presidential election nears, the book could hardly be timelier. A useful, data-rich analysis of how we use social media—and how it uses us.”

Kirkus Reviews

“The most important book of the year! Our friendships, economy, and society now depend on billions of social media connections around the world and no one on the planet understands them better than Sinan Aral….[A] lively, engaging masterpiece, drawing on his 20 years of pioneering research, Sinan separates hype from reality, clarifies our most pressing challenges and explains how we must respond.”

— Erik Brynjolfsson, Director of the Stanford Digital Economy Lab and bestselling coauthor of “The Second Machine Age”

“In a sea of books about social media, this is the one to read. Sinan Aral understands the new social age like no one else and ‘The Hype Machine’ offers the single best examination of how social media works, what it does to us and how we can make it better for consumers, citizens and democracies. In short, it offers solutions for making social media ‘social’ again.”

— Clint Watts, author of “Messing With the Enemy”

“Is social media a force for good or evil? Sinan Aral deconstructs ‘The Hype Machine’ and takes us on a breathtaking journey through the economics, technology and behavioral psychology that shape it. When lies spread faster than facts, how do we ensure the integrity of markets and elections? If you want to understand how we can capture the promise of social media and avoid its peril, read this!”

— Maria Ressa, CEO of Rappler and Time’s Person of the Year 2018

“Everyone has a theory about social media, but Sinan Aral brings the science — and the storytelling. ‘The Hype Machine’ is an immensely interesting, informative, and provocative look at the driving forces of some of the biggest technological questions of our time, and how they’ll play out in the future of our democracy.”

— Eli Pariser, bestselling author of “The Filter Bubble”

“’The Hype Machine’ is a riveting story of social media’s impact on how we vote, date and shop—and thus how we live. With our democracy in the crosshairs, and tech companies controlling our screens, leading expert Sinan Aral pulls back the curtain on the digital tools used to direct the flow of influence in society. Part spy novel and part science thriller, it is an essential guide to ensuring our digital future.”

— Jonah Berger, Wharton, bestselling author of “Contagious, Invisible Influence, and The Catalyst”

“Full of rigor and insight, ‘The Hype Machine’ tackles some of the most pressing policy questions of the Digital Age while keeping you on the edge of your seat (an unlikely combination). It’s a “must read” for policymakers, business executives and parents alike.”

— DJ Patil, former Chief Data Scientist of the U.S.

“’The Hype Machine’ is a meticulous dissection of social media and how it affects our lives. Aral gives us a much-needed framework for what happened in the 2016 election, and what will likely happen again if nothing changes.”

— Scott Galloway, bestselling author of “The Four,” co-creator and co-host of Pivot

“With his precision science and rollicking narrative storytelling, Sinan Aral, the director of MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy, takes us on his fascinating 20-year-journey as one of the first and most prescient scholars of social media. He explains how social media impacts our democracy, disseminates truth and lies, propagates hate and makes people fall in love, hooks us neurologically and emotionally, and connects us all for better or worse. Is social media a boon for society or a curse? The answer is complex and you’ll have to read The Hype Machine to find out.”

— Richard Stengel, former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, former editor of Time Magazine and author of “Information Wars” and “A Long Walk to Freedom”

“Brilliant! Aral’s masterful integration of science, business, law, and policy presents a powerful, accessible explanation of how social media affects all of us.  Whether you simply want to understand the how and why, or need to make business or policy decisions, this is a must read!”

— Foster Provost, NYU Stern School of Business author of “Data Science for Business”

“Sinan Aral is a scientist and entrepreneur, and his unique perspective makes him the perfect guide to the world we live in today. From ads to fake news, ‘The Hype Machine’ is the best critical foundation for understanding the connected world and how we might navigate through it to a better future.”

— Hilary Mason, Founder and CEO of Fast Forward Labs, Data Scientist in Residence at Accel and former Chief Scientist at bitly

“It reads like a thriller, but it’s all too true. A thoughtful, well-researched and timely look at how the structure of media changes the structure of our lives. It’s time we took action and amplified the ideas that truly matter.”

— Seth Godin, author of “This is Marketing”

“If you want the truth about falsehoods, real information about misinformation, and rigorous analysis of hype, this is the book for you. Nobody knows better than Sinan how ideas spread online, and in these pages he’s distilled a brilliant career into a fascinating read. Don’t miss it if you care about how the Internet is changing our world.”

— Andrew McAfee, MIT, author of “More from Less,” coauthor of “The Second Machine Age”

“In this book, Sinan Aral, one of the world’s leading computational social scientists, tackles one of the great challenges of our time: how to reengineer digital technology to better serve society. Authoritative, comprehensive, nuanced, and engaging, ‘The Hype Machine’ is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how we got here and how we can get somewhere better.”

— Duncan Watts, University of Pennsylvania, author of “Six Degrees” and “Everything is Obvious”

“Sinan Aral’s ‘Hype Machine’ explains how social media changes who we know, what we do, and even how we think. As the world relies even more heavily on social media during the Covid-19 pandemic and the upsurge against racism and police violence, he helps us understand how digital technology will change our future, and what individuals, companies, and society should do differently to adapt and thrive.”

— David Kirkpatrick, founder and CEO of Techonomy and author of “The Facebook Effect”

Social Media

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