Influentials Aren’t That Influential?

coolinfluenceThere’s a very cool article that came out yesterday that discusses the unimportance of influencers in marketing. We should probably get Raquel involved when she’s back and the office and do a white paper, but I think a blog post that goes something like this might be good. Any ideas?

I imagine we’ll be writing a little bit more about this in the next couple of days, but I think it’s worthwhile to point some fascinating research that is being done by Duncan Watts on how much the concept of influencers actually affects the marketing process.

This is a subject that is rather controversial at the moment, even around the lab – the discussion of opinions about how information flows through networks. Are desciprtions presented in things like “The Tipping Point” accurate or are depictions of network theory more accurately depicted by books like “Linked.”? While that’s a very academic description of what we’re talking about, consider this: How does your message reach a consumer? Should you go through an influencer? Those are the types of questions that information flow theory answers.

“It just doesn’t work,” Watts says, when I meet him at his gray cubicle at Yahoo Research in midtown Manhatten, which is unadorned except for a whiteboard crammed with equations. “A rare bunch of cool people just don’t have that power. And when you test the way markets say the world works, it falls apart. There’s no there there.”

Still unconvinced? Pay attention here, then, because this is the real reason you should be listening:

“And this is not, he agrees, mere academic whimsy. He has developed a new technique for propagating ads virally, which can double or even quadruple the reach of an ordinary online campaign by harnessing the pass-around power of everyday people – and ignoring influentials altogether.”