One of the most comfortable assumptions that we make about moving markets in our directions is that there exist a group of “influencers” who, if we can only persuade them of the justness of our cause, will sway the hearts and minds of the masses to buy our stuff.
It’s extremely appealing because it is so simple to understand.
We’re coming out of an era where mass broadcast media like the New York Times or NBC could talk to millions at a time and tell them all the same thing. Most of us, then, could respond in a common way.
And, with it, the notion of the “influencer” reigning supreme is starting to crumble.
One of the key tenets of the Cluetrain Manifesto is that “networks subvert hierarchies” and this period in our history is nothing if not a redonkulous growth in the number, scale, and power of networks for regular people.
And, now, we are starting to see the data pour in to support it.
A relatively recent academic study that analyzed over 1.7 billion tweets resulted in a research paper called “Measuring User Influence in Twitter: The Million Follower Fallacy.”
[If you aren’t up for the full on academic read, which I recommend, check out a summary from Read Write Web, which is good, but not great]
Bottom line: mass doesn’t equal influence.
There’s a lot more to it, but a lot of followers doesn’t really mean that much. Something that Anil Dash validated from the other side (he has over 300k followers and says the extra ones he got don’t really matter).
Instead, as Mark Earls points out in his book HERD, what it comes down to is that we are shaped-in large part- by the people with whom we associate.
And those clusters are a lot different than you might expect (see this interesting analysis of Facebook connections broken down geographically in the US)
The idea of the influencer is easy, but it is a lazy shortcut.
As Earls writes:
Mass behavior is inherently complex because it is based on the interaction of individual agents.
But we try to understand it as if it were complicated (i.e. reducible to individual component parts).
This is why we find it difficult to understand mass behavior.
The data is supporting the investment in Raving Fans and Community more and more each day. (full disclosure: my livelihood depends on this hypothesis ;-)
Lesson: If you are going to invest in “influencer” relations vs. community building, I’ll argue (again-see here) that the community is a better place for your time and money.
- @davekerpen and I'm looking forward to it
- @tubblog @bigbutton if you have a URL to which I can point re: Attention Economy, that would be golden!
- http://ping.fm/cCmZb http://ow.ly/1qu8GD