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Word of Mouth Versus Key Influencers

This post is a special Make a Referral Week guest post featuring education on the subject of referrals and word of mouth marketing and making 1000 referrals to 1000 small businesses – check it out at Make a Referral Week 2010

This summary of an article from the December issue of the Journal of Advertising Research (good luck finding the issue online because I couldn’t) says that common word-of-mouth advertising by regular folks is more powerful than “key influencers.” Which is to say that sucking up to A-list bloggers may not be all that it’s cracked up to be. It seems like it’s bad day for celebrity endorsements.

James Coyle, assistant professor of marketing at Miami University’s Farmer School of Business, Elizabeth Lightfoot of CNET Networks, and Ted Smith and Amy Scott of MedTrackAlert conducted the study by surveying website visitors, conducting in-depth reviews, and analyzing website usage patterns. Said Coyle:

“We find that trying to track down key influencers, people who have extremely large social networks, is typically unnecessary and, more importantly, can actually limit a campaign or advertisement’s viral potential. Instead, marketers need to realize that the majority of their audience, not just the well-connected few, is eager and willing to pass along well-designed and relevant messages.”

I agree. I think that most key influencers are pompous, insecure jerks who take themselves way too seriously. And I say this knowing that you can rightfully accuse me of being one of them. The marketing lesson is this: Create something great, sow fields (not window boxes), “let a hundred flowers blossom,” and pray that “regular folks” will spread the word.

Guy Kawasaki is a managing director of Garage Technology Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm. Previously, he was an Apple Fellow at Apple Computer, Inc. Guy is the author of nine books including Reality Check, The Art of the Start, Rules for Revolutionaries, How to Drive Your Competition Crazy, Selling the Dream, and The Macintosh Way.

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  • http://mbrewergroup.com mbrewer

    Valid point –

    “I agree. I think that most key influencers are pompous, insecure jerks who take themselves way too seriously.”

    It's interesting to watch what a little attention does to a persons ego. It's interesting to watch the mind's door go from open to closed when one garnishes a following. It's the quickest way to get unfollowed in my opinion.

    To the point of the post – it really boils down to sending out good actionable content to all participants. Give them something cool to talk about and they will.

    Thanks for the post…

  • http://www.therisetothetop.com David Siteman Garland

    Well said. Everyone has become an influencer. Regardless of whether your community is 2, 200, 2,000, 2,000,000.

    If you influence one person. You are an influencer.

  • http://fastforwardacademy.com/index-page-irs-enrolled-agent-exam-course.htm enrolled agent course

    Really good article! I agree with most of the comments, each person can have an influence in another. There is no need to search for key influencers because we all the power within to make a difference and influence lives.

  • http://fastforwardacademy.com/index-page-irs-enrolled-agent-exam-course.htm enrolled agent study guide

    Of COURSE word-of-mouth is a better means of advertising. I think people, in general, are much more apt to buy a product recommended by a close friend rather than some hot celebrity spokesperson. Moreover, I think companies KNOW this, and that's why they spend so much time trying to replicate the success of simple word-of-mouth with things like “unpaid testimonials” and “real-life user feedback.” People are relational in nature, and they're more apt to trust someone with whom they have a personal relationship.

  • http://www.DarrenMonroe.com/ Darren Scott Monroe

    Yes it is ironic you said that Guy LOL. But I agree that people listen to people. Not hype or sponsors but people. Seems like the furthest I ever got in life was by being myself not kissing a big bad bloggers butt. Real people do real things. Hey remember the A list was once a B and C list blogger. Find your B and C List bloggers and build with them NOW.

  • http://www.adrianswinscoe.com/blog/ Adrian Swinscoe

    Guy,
    Completely agree with your analogy “let a hundred flowers blossom” and admire your honesty.

    Like my Mum used to say “Be careful, not to put too many eggs in one basket”.

    Adrian

  • http://warungblogger.com/ business marketing

    very interesting, many people only focus on the major influences and forget or ignore the common word of mouth advertising which more effective and efficient if your message well designed and relevant messages.