Influencers, Tipping Points and Trends, Oh My

This month’s Fast Company rekindled the previous debate between Duncan Watts and those in the ‘Influencer’ camp.

Watts is a ‘network-theory scientist who recently took a sabbatical from Columbia University and is now working for Yahoo,’ and here is the break-down of the argument:

Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point theorizes that there are ‘mavens’ out there that are the first ones to grab onto new trends. These influencers are both rare and powerful and, as the well-respected Ed Keller camp believes, these are the one out of ten folks who tell the other nine where to shop, what to buy, etc., etc.

Duncan Watts’ camp, as I understand it, believes that trends will happen when they are ready to happen – and that anyone can be an ‘influencer’… even your average, unconnected slob.

There’s data and charts and impressive books and presentations to back up both camps.

My two cents? They’re both right.

In our experience, which is not driven by charts, data or the like – but by hands-on experience, success is to look for those that have the potential to become influencers and empower them. It hasn’t been the coolest of the cool or those that are already giants in an industry. They are everyday people, but they aren’t the unconnected slobs, either. But we have seen these ‘everyday’ people become influencers. They have risen in the communities they serve and also have, in turn, raised others in the community as well. So now they are influencers making influencers. And so it spreads.

Watts, Keller and Gladwell are all great thinkers. And they have definitely influenced the way we do things around here as we continue to build sustainable movements into the very core of brand identities. The only thing we have had to go on, though, is hands-on, front-lines experience and our gut ” both of which have served us well.

I think it’s both great for the WOMM industry and healthy for all of us that there isn’t only one camp to pull from. So as the debate rages on and both sides generate more data to support their views, I have no doubt that we’ll all benefit from their thinking. Or at least it’ll be some more reading that makes my head hurt.

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