Word of Mouth Versus Key Influencers

Word of Mouth Versus Key Influencers

By John Jantsch

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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