Sometimes, I just love the Internet and the blogosphere. How ideas and debates sometimes spread like wildfire online.
The most recent one is a debate on Gladwells theory of The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Differencestarted by Watts, a scientist from Columbia University, now working for Yahoo. According to The Fast Company Magazine Watts has pointed out with research that trying to get A-listers or influentials to start a trend is no more likely to be successful than trying to get any other person to start a trend. The Fast Company writes:
In the past few years, Watts--a network-theory scientist who recently took a sabbatical from Columbia University and is now working for Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) --has performed a series of controversial, barn-burning experiments challenging the whole Influentials thesis. He has analyzed email 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.
Guy Kawasaki bought it and wrote about it on his blog. In theory this is correct. This is just like a chain letter. It doesn't matter if it is started by one person or 50. If it is picked up by the society it will spread in the power of x until the market is full. So it only seems to be a question of "the ripe moment". When the society is ready you will succeed. If it's not ready, you will not succeed, no matter how many influentials or A-listers you get to promote your product.
But the key lies in the last sentance of the quote above: Any attempt to engineer success through Influentials, he argues, is almost certainly doomed to failure. You see, marketing isn't rocket science. It isn't engineering. It's social arts. You can't put it into a formula like that.
The thing is, if you don't pitch the right influentials that are ready for your product, you will not succeed. Watts argues that mass marketing should be used to get the product exposed to more people because you never know who is the right person to promote your product. That is correct "When he tried to pitch "some company's shitty product," he couldn't force it to go viral." So for shitty products, you use mass marketing like they recommend. But the importance of reaching the masses again proofs that A-listers should be more influential than technorati-one-millioners, like me, because they are more likely to expose the product or idea to someone who will love it.
We can just take this discussion as an example. Now if it wouldn't have been published on the Fast Company Guy Kawasaki and Seth Godin wouldn't have written about it. If they hadn't done that, I would have missed this discussion, and most likely, so would you. If it would have been on just any other technorati-one-millioner blog the chance of a someone picking up the story would have been far less.
So my summary of this discussion is:
1. You should try to pitch A-listers within your niche. If you don't find an A-lister within your niche, go for the technorati-one-millioner instead of picking an A-lister outside your niche. Choose quality over quantity, because a sucker for your product or idea is going to get you a lot further than someone that doesn't really care, even if that person has thousand times the number of readers.
2. Your product, idea or contect has to be exceptionally good. I don't pass things around or endorse them if I don't love it (or hate it, that works for viral spread but not for actual sales). So quality is essential in what you are passing around as well. And the market has to be "ripe".
3. All this discussion proofs that no matter how helpful and fantastic marketing statistics and numbers may be, and how complicated mathematical formulas you can draw on your whiteboard, they can never replace the social touch you need to have, to succeed in marketing.
And of course, you are welcome to email this article to all your friends, influential or not :)