Malcolm Gladwell's key tenet of The Tipping Point is that social epidemics are driven by the actions of a tiny minority of special individuals who are unusually informed, persuasive and well-connected. New research by Duncan Watkins at Columbia University shows that influentials primarily have an impact only on the small number of people they have interaction with. His premise is:
If the network permits the idea to spread, anyone can start it. Forest fire analogy: size of it has little to do with the size of the spark that started it, and lots to do with the state of the forest.Conclusion for marketers: identifying the supposed influentials may be a misdirected task, and instead they should focus on helping the large number of ordinary folks to reach out and influence others just like them.
If you haven't listened to the HBR IdeaCast yet, it's worth 10 or 15 minutes of your time. Of course, it's a clever plug for the latest issue of the Harvard Business Review, but the conversations are always intriguing and thoughtful.