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?
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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?