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Do You Need Influencers Or People Who Are Easily Influenced to "Tip" the Network?

Several months ago I blogged about The Tipping Point and how different types of influencers helped move ideas from the fringes to the mainstream. Now according to Brandweek, (via Nedra Weinreich at Spare Change), Columbia sociology professor Duncan Watts is arguing that the notion of influencers is "bunk":

" . . .most of the time buzz is spread by networks and a "critical mass of easily influenced people each of whom adopts, say, a look or brand after being exposed to a single adopting neighbor."

So what should those of us interested in the psychology of influence do? Says Watts:

"First, they should focus less on who people influence and more on how people are influenced. It sounds like just the other side of the same coin, but the difference is important—identifying easily influenced people, and how they are influenced raises different questions, and requires different research design than looking for influentials. Second, they should also think more about networks, and network structure, rather than treating everyone as behaving independently. And third, they should move away from the idea that buzz can be engineered to achieve some prespecified outcome, and get better at measuring and reacting to buzz that arises naturally".

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