The Tipping Point Is Toast, But Watts Didn’t Burn It

by Jason Falls |

Fast CompanyClive Thompson’s Fast Company story about Duncan Watts and his stance that books like Malcolm Gladwell‘s The Tipping Point and The Influentials by Ed Keller and Jon Berry are basically bunk – that influencers play only a minor part in trend setting and producing the viral effect so many brands and marketers are in search of – is an interesting read. As Rob May of BusinessPundit.com put it, “I always enjoy seeing conventional wisdom kicked in the face.”

Rob emailed me the link yesterday morning (he gets up way earlier than me) with the subject line, “Mass Media vs. Social Media.” Watts says companies should harness the pass-along power of everyday people, not just the well-connected, and do so by continuing to rely on some mass media methods. Reaching out to influencers is the conventional wisdom Watts is lined up to punt.

Thompson’s article is entitled, “Is The Tipping Point Toast?” Yes, it is. But Watts didn’t burn it. He only pressed the button. What turns the knob to “darker” is that conventional wisdom is in search of the wrong kind of influencer.

In Gladwell’s book, the well-connected, over-stuffed Rolodex types are your target. They know more people. More people know them. They’re influencers. They have pass-along power. But, as Watts points out through his research and hypothesis, they don’t always use that power while what appear to be random folks with less connections can imitate it.

Where Watts makes the mistake is assuming that the mimicking of influence is random. The seemingly random and “insignificant” people have pass-along power as well. You should give them the tools they need to pass along information about your brand. But the ones who use those tools have something entirely different that neither Watts, nor today’s average marketer, are looking for. They have pass-along passion.

It isn’t good enough to have power. You have to want to use it.

What brands need is not connections to the well-connected or mass media appeal mixed with finger- and toe-crossing. What brands need is to seek out those seemingly random and “insignificant” folks who are passionate about your brand. Your influencers are there. You just aren’t looking for them.

Other Posts You’ll Find Interesting:

  1. Influentials On The Web Are People With The Power To Link
  2. Scientist Debunks “The Influentials” Theory
  3. Influencers, Tipping Points And Trends, Oh My!
  4. Keep The Tip(ping Point)
  5. The Debate Continues: What Is Influence?
[tags]Duncan Watts, influencers, influentials, marketing, brand ambassadors, brand evangelists, branding, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell, mass media, social media[/tags]

About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).