The influencer is dead, long live the influencer?

Last months HBR featured their annual "Breakthrough Ideas" section. 20 essays that will "satisfy our demainding readers' appetite for provocative and important new ideas". Ranging from nanotech to accounting, they are all at least worth reading. One in particular has really stood out though.

"The Accidental Influentials" by Duncan J Watts & Peter Dodds disputes the main premise of "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell. The main point: the network must be ready for the changes to occur.

...Even the most influential members of a population simply don't interact with that many others... if people in the network just two degrees removed from the initial influential prove resistance, the cascade of change won't propagate..."

My favorite line:

...just as the size of a forest fire often has little to do with the spark that started it and lots to do with the state of the forest.

So what does this mean? First, it's important to recognize the limited impact of "influencers" (A-list bloggers) to a larger population. Word-of-mouth is king. Second, it's actually possible that blogging somewhat pushes the bounds of this research, as it precisely provides a podium from which one person can reach many.

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Comments:

A pretty interesting examination of consumer decision-making psychology in this week's NYT, too.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/15/magazine/15wwlnidealab.t.html?_r=2&ref=magazine&pagewanted=all&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

Especially, cumulative advantage and network effects in the popularity and adoption of freely available technology, such as operating systems.

Posted by Noel on April 17, 2007 at 04:46 PM PDT #

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