Last week we talked about the five influence traps you must avoid. For this leg of the conversation on influence, we'll be reviewing the theory of the few.
In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell wrote about connectors, mavens, and salespeople. He shared stories to demonstrate that in essence individual action and strong ties work together to confer different kinds of super hero powers to connectors, mavens, and salespeople.
Paul Revere started a word-of-mouth epidemic for the message about the British invasion — people believed him and sprung to action. From the book, connectors know more people and more of the right kinds of people. Paul Revere was a connector, he got the message out.
Mavens are all about information. And they aren't passive about that information. In the book, there is the example of a maven wanting you to know about deals, because they have all kinds of good tips and knowledge on products and services.
Then there are salespeople (Gladwell calls them salesmen) who have the skills to persuade others. Through a combination of verbal and non verbal cues, salespeople are skilled at making you feel at the center of the room, and all the ideas are coming from you.
Connectors know lots of people and want to tell them stuff, mavens know lots of things and want to educate others, salespeople know a lot of the right stuff to do with people to persuade them.
Although this is a fairly accurate documentation of how things went down in the cases and studies Gladwell chronicles, it is quite linear. It doesn't take into account the complexity of the interactions people have daily where there are characteristics of each at play with individuals, nor does it address the group aspects of those interactions.
Both are important to you, if you want to understand how true influence flows.
It gives you little information as to how these people got there, what shaped them, and most importantly, why — what made them choose to take one action over another when they did. It thus becomes an elitist view of the world, which ends up being unhelpful to you; you either appeal to them and get them to act on your behalf, or you don't. It's not a zero-sum situation at all.
Modern marketers, on the other hand, say influence is democratic. Everyone has it, or can potentially gain it online, as we discussed when we talked about the tools. Everyone is influential and has equal standing with online and offline communities. Which, of course, while desirable, is not accurate.
To understand why, we'll take a short detour into the work of Duncan Watts, principal research scientist at Yahoo Research.
In a study conducted when at Columbia University, Duncan Watts concluded that the size of a cascade or effect initiated by influencers is not significantly larger than those initiated by ordinary people. This observation was validated by the conditions under which the simulated of how influence moves through networks was conducted.
The paper describes the measurement used to document the size of this cascade or effect: “When all activations associated with a single cascade have occurred, its size can be determined simply as the total cumulative number of activations.”
This theory contends that timing and influence, combined, demonstrate the power of weak ties (Mark Granovetter called it strength of weak ties), those myriad weakest connections that are the most powerful in disseminating information. Thus, the network theory dictates that it's both individual behavior and interaction that make up influence.
Which brings up the six degrees of separation.
It's a small world and what goes around comes around, as the saying goes.
I'm over simplifying here. Much research and thought continue to be put into figuring out what helps spread things — including diseases. Everyone is trying very much to figure out how those mechanisms and dynamics can be leveraged to help spread marketing messages — what is the shortcut, the code, where should you start?
On the practical side of things, all you want to know, all every organization is looking for, is a way to get to those influencers who matter in their world — and to do that quickly, and cost effectively. And here's the tricky part: their world may be defined differently by each internal stakeholder — and it will be different than that of your customers.
Unless your business is truly customer-centric, in which case every group sees itself as integrated with the other to serve the customer, who is at the center, you still have a fragmented view of what and who you consider influential.
How does each stakeholder inside your organization view influence? How does each expect outreach to occur? What is an ideal world scenario? What are the results or outcome each hopes to achieve? Is that what you actually measure?
Next week, we'll see how you can "up your score" when it comes to true influence.
[image of buzz isn't buzzing]