In the latest issue of Fast Company there is an article that is creating a little bit of a stir, “Is the Tipping Point Toast?” The guts of the article is that Duncan Watts is taking The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell and other influencer marketing sources to task saying that the current state of using influentials to spread messages/trends is a waste.
There has been some good thinking on the subject already. Noah weaves some thinking around engagement, or participation, of what is being spread and how Strong vs. Weak ties within social networks drive viral. I’ve been doing some of my own work on the idea of Strong vs. Weak ties and have found that yes ,you can identify the spreaders or influentials within networks. For me, they are the weak ties across networks. The reason a weak tie is the influential is that they are the ones that have the best opportunity to continue the spread of a message to a wide range of individuals. Now while they are easy to identify on paper, much more difficult in reality for a couple of reasons. But there are a couple of problems with this thinking. First, just because on paper someone is a weak tie, i.e. has multiple social points they participate in, doesn’t mean they are an ‘active’ membrane for messages/ideas/trends. They could just be by-standers in different groups. The other problem is, and you could say it is the human factor, the ties (Weak or Strong) are in a constant state of flux. And I think this is the point that Mike Arauz is getting to. That influence and influentials are part of a very complex relationship system.
Scott Monty is right that really to make influential marketing work the right pieces need to be in the right place at the right time. But it wasn’t until I read Armano’s post that it clicked in for me. Armano pointed out that influentials must work because he didn’t read the article against influentials (even though he saw the Fact Company headline) until an influential pointed it out to him. That’s when it clicked – context and relevance.
So the influential equation might look something like this – the message needs to be context and relevant, delivered by someone who has access to multiple audiences and is a participator within their multiple audiences. When identifying an influential strategy we need not just to identify influentials, but the audiences to which the influentials will interact/engage with and apply that learning/insight to the message/idea/trend we want to spread.
Update: Have you noticed the number of articles/post of influentials lately? Just saw this one on automotive influentials.