10 Principles At Work In Creating Buzz In Social Networking

Last Christmas break was a busy socializing extravaganza with family, friends and business colleagues. There was much wine consumed, gifts given, food eaten and stories told, both tall tales and true. Superficial but interesting conversations were engaged on topics like movies recently watched ..such as “Avatar” and  questions such as … “Is it a paradigm shift in the way we watch and consume movies?” and is it a movie worth going to see?

Most of these conversations were offline and face to face. Some conversations were about social media and social networking and we discussed issues such as “Does Social Media trivialize real human social interaction because it is not face to face?”

On a plane tonight coming back from a weekend on the Gold Coast, where I caught up with friends and family, I read a book by Emmanuel Rosen titled “Buzz..Real Life Lessons in Word Of Mouth Marketing” that discusses the viral effect of conversations online and offline and how word of mouth spreads, especially in how it relates to marketing.

Some of the questions he asks and discusses are

  • How do you create far reaching influence or a “Global Cascade” of conversation?
  • Do you need to find the “Influentials” that  are the gatekeepers to social networks to start the conversation Buzz?

or do you you only have to find a “Critical mass of of easily influenced individuals”  to create far reaching influence.

A study by Dodds and Watts in 2007 in the Harvard Business Review was about how “Social Epidemics” occur where recommendations for a product like Avatar can be promulgated and enhanced through conversations with friends and colleagues. They found that if three friends recommended a product or brand to a person, in most cases it had no influence but with the fourth mention in the positive that they became “infected” and spread the gospel for that product. So with that, Rosen went on to list the 10 principles that he believes are at work in social networking which has a high degree of relevancy to social media.

So what are the 10 principles at work in Social Networking?

1. Social Networks are Invisible...even in the age of social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace

No matter how hard you try you cannot find the “strength of the tie” and this comes down to

  • the privacy of the networks
  • people don’t reveal their true network ties
  • there is a lot of  noise in the data that comes from these sites

2. People Link With Other Who Are Similiar To Them

An example of this is that each sport has it’s own social network, Golfers hang out with golfers and compare notes on things like golf clubs. This “Homophily Principle” has 2 basic implications

  • They tend to form clusters
  • The more similiar your employees are to your customersthe easier the communications will be

3. People Who Are Similiar To Each Other Form Clusters

This can be simply shown with examples of why do Hells Angels travel in packs or girls in second grade play together. Clusters can informally adopt products together such as “Apple” fanatics.

Note: If you product becomes becomes the standard within a cluster , it makes it dificult for competitors to uproot you from this postion.

4. Buzz Spreads Through Common Nodes

This means that even though we as human beings might have only “6 degrees of seperation” that transferring buzz between different structures or nodes has a high degree of friction.

5. Information Gets Trapped In Clusters

You can have different clusters in the same building or company such as Marketing and PR. Spreading buzz from one group to another is rare. It normally means that a story can be trapped within the marketers or PR.

6. Network Hubs and Connectors Create Shortcuts

There is an example of some German Birkenstock sandals that were discovered by an American Margaret Fraser on a visit to a Yoga trainer in Germanywhere she discovered these really comfortable sandals that on taking them back to the USA and became the master distributor that have now become a $120 Million dollar a year business. The connector enabled a quick way to get the product discovered on the other side of the world.

Note: Venture capitalists are also a good example of the role of the connector between “clusters”

7. We Talk To Those Around Us

The Internet does cross geographical boundaries but those that are in close proximity are the ones we still influence with the most ease

This highlights the following

  • Geography still matters
  • 74% of all comments are transmitted through simple face to face conversations (Keller Fay, 2007)
  • When marketing a product or service that you hope will have a a national or global appeal. It is important to create a presence in every geographical location.
  • Traditional marketing based on Zip codes, database marekting and bricks and mortar locations is still important

8. Weak Ties Are Surprisingly Strong

A study in the late 1960’s by Mark Granowetter of Harward showed

“Word of mouth through acquaintances had significantly more impact than word of mouth with close friends and relatives”

The takeaway on this – people outside of our close networks are important in bringing in fresh data – in other words diversify your connections.

9. The Net Nurtures Weak Ties

It’s easy to maintain weak ties on the Internet. The increase in weak ties on the internet can explain why information travels much faster today. The Internet creates millions of shortcuts of weak ties that bridge social clusters.

10. Networks Go Across Categories

Politicians used to be able to take one message to a core group of supporters  and a different one to the general public but not now. The internet and the new social networking channels are blurring the lines among different categories. What  was once a private message to the loyal followers is now public conversation within seconds and minutes.

So how could you apply these 10 principles to creating buzz about your product or service?


  • http://www.pocketinfo.net Robert L

    Interesting article. I agree that location and Geography is very important in helping create networks. Also the ideas of weak ties is a good one. I try and connect across specialists in different areas on twitter – after all there are only so many SEO experts you need to follow.

    I also think Keller Fay should look at her stats as in the Social Networking environment her figures are now quite outdated. 74% seems too high.

  • http://www.powerof9.co.za/blog/ Monique Boucher

    Fantastic blog post! I am fascinated by the Dodds and Watts’ findings that 3 friend recommendations is not quite enough but one more and a person is convinced. Using this principal for clients’ social media campaigns could be a challenge (but not impossible) as one would have to have contacts in common with 3 others and synchronise the message. I’m definitely going to encourage our team to retweet/create links for various online campaigns (we may have shared contacts we didn’t know about) but I am also going to find out more about leveraging the influence of the ‘acquaintance. Thanks for the insightful post, it got me thinking.

  • http://www.surviveyourpromotion.com Katy

    Great stuff – repetition of the message is the key (based on psychological studies related to advertising but can be presumed to apply to social media) – hearing the same recommendation from many sources (esp. weak connections) builds up the credibility of the product and the feeling that “everyone else has it so I should too”. Getting many disparate people to talk about your product is the best way to get it sold.

  • http://www.listenlogic.com ListenLogic

    Really enjoyable read. I especially enjoyed the part about how word of mouth between acquaintances is stronger than it is with friends and family. VERY VERY TRUE.

    No matter how much I read on social media it’s always good to refresh, will definitely be tweeting this one out.

  • http://twitter.com/TonyKochAUS Tony Koch

    Another great article Jeff.

    I agree with Robert L – given the rise of social networking sites in recent years the 74% face to face figure from a 2007 study may not be quite as high – either that or we are all caught up in our own social media fishbowl and forget many (including my wife) use the internet for email an nothing much else.

    That aside, I agree ‘Geography still matters’
    I find myself drawn to local (Australian) sources like yourself in preference to authors in the USA. It may be the plain language used in the posts our maybe just point 2 ‘People Link With Other Who Are Similiar To Them’.

    Interested in what you and others think. (there I go again – seeking validation from own peer group)

  • Nicky

    thanks for the reminder of who all these social networks link together – worth taking note of when brand building etc.

  • http://www.halobiz.co.nz Julie South

    Kia Ora Jeff – Am right behind the #2 principle (“people link with others who are similar to them”) – that’s exactly the ethos we have in our online business directory where we offer our clients the opportunity to list not only the community organisations they support and their professional associations but also their personal interests as a means of enabling more social networks to develop. Smiles, from Julie, halobiz.co.nz