It's Not A Velvet Rope Where Certain People Can Enter And Others Are Left In Line
January 11, 2011
I recently read a great article in Fast Company that introduces us to Duncan Watts.
"Watts -- a network-theory scientist who recently took a sabbatical from Columbia University and is now working for Yahoo -- has performed a series of controversial, barn-burning experiments challenging the whole Influentials thesis. He has analyzed e-mail patterns and found that highly connected people are not, in fact, crucial social hubs. He has written computer models of rumor spreading and found that your average slob is just as likely as a well-connected person to start a huge new trend. And last year, Watts demonstrated that even the breakout success of a hot new pop band might be nearly random. Any attempt to engineer success through Influentials, he argues, is almost certainly doomed to failure."
I believe Duncan is onto something here with his research to challenge the idea of "The Tipping Point," where Malcolm Gladwell took the position that a small number of influential people can essentially determine all the "hits."
In a world of limited choices, exposure was rewarded and given credit as influence after people would recall a message you bombarded them with so frequently it was hard not to be "top of mind" -- even if someone wasn't interested or it had no appeal to them. As the paradigm shift to digital and social started to offer people more choices and control, many marketers focused on the early adopters as a way to build a blueprint for the majority, but failed to account for the fact that the majority were unaware, not interested or still in the listening phase and hadn't even responded yet.
But the idea proposed early on in "The Tipping Point" was something many jumped on board for because of the possibility of finding the golden needle in a new, exciting haystack. You could continue to bombard everyone, but also find those few who seemed to set the trends for others and bombard them enough to build a "relationship" so they would interrupt their friends on your behalf and make you successful.
This isn't new. As marketers and people, we always want a road map; but today, it's a GPS to not only point the way, but to find the shortest routes to the destination and to avoid all the roadblocks.
What I've learned in my career is that the best connections and moments that lead to social success are not bought or manufactured, but communicated on a human level with people who are there because they are interested in the same things you are and believe what you also believe. It's a simple but dynamic engagement that succeeds or fails based on knowing who you are first (your purpose) -- and not launching tactics, but discovering your strategic advantage through a laser-focused singular idea and seeking shared attention through a valuable proposition.
If your idea is communicated clearly in a real and authentic way, and exposed enough times to reach like-minded folks in many places (online and off), you will be influential to the good, hip, average and simple. Be disciplined and focus on delivering an experience, where others can co-create, collaborate and share, focused on a deep need to feel that they belong, and the reward is that many people will tell one or even 100. They will see the possibility to be inspired, informed and elevated inside a culture "just like me," where connecting can start a movement that will have a greater meaning for everyone involved.
Status does matter, and share ability is the result of its power. However, today it's not a velvet rope where certain people can enter and others are left in line.
You can use status to your advantage by remembering that in each moment, we want to know:
- Who likes me? / Who is like me?
- Is everything okay? / Am I okay?
- How can I become more popular? / Look how popular I am!
- What's new? / Look at me!
- I'm bored. What can I share to make some noise? What can I say to start a conversation?
Help them with these moments by not focusing on the medium or technology, but on the social interaction someone has inside each moment. A consistent focus on ideas and content around your singular focus to help them generate social currency to gain attention, benefit others, elevate status and look good.
In my 20+ years in the communications business, I have seen small sparks of an idea turn into a forest fire in minutes, not because of the hippest person making a proclamation of cool, but because of real, authentic moments that inspired, informed, elevated and connected people in a way that was worth participation, passing on and/or profit.
Make a social impact by enhancing their moments this way and the "Tipping Point" will occur when not one, but many "like you" and want to share your story with anyone who will listen, because its their story too.
Read the extended version here
Follow on Twitter/@eventrpro or hashtag #socialimpactCome see if you "Like" other Social Impact ideas on Facebook