Who are really the influencers?

March 24, 2010 by George Eberstadt

Online Media Daily reports today on a study by ICOM — a division of direct marketing agency Epsilon — which finds that there is no universal influencer, and that consumers are influencers strictly within product categories, rather than across all categories.  In other words, just because that blogger or Twitterer has thousands of readers/followers doesn’t mean they will be influential with YOUR customers.

Then the piece goes on to note:

One of the first studies to seriously cast doubt on influencers’ limitless authority was released by Canadian research firm Pollara in mid-2008. Based on the responses of some 1,100 adults, it found that self-described social media users put far more trust in friends and family online than in popular bloggers, or strangers with 10,000 social network “friends.”

Nearly 80% said they were very or somewhat more likely to consider buying products recommended by real-world friends and family, while only 23% reported being very or somewhat likely to consider a product pushed by “well-known bloggers.”

So if your goal is to activate the people who are influential with the consumers you are targeting, shouldn’t you be looking for your influencers within those consumers’ friend networks?

The Economist: friend recommendations are the most trusted source of product information

January 31, 2010 by George Eberstadt

The Economist has a special section this week on social networking.  They include the chart below pointing out that friend recommendations are the most trusted source of product information.  What’s interesting here is just how far ahead friend recommendations are from the next closest source; eyeballing the “trust completely” bar, the factor appears to be almost 3X.

So if trust is important in your sales and marketing, you really need to be thinking about how to harness the power of social networks.

Are your friends making you fat?

September 16, 2009 by George Eberstadt

That’s the title of a recent article in the New York Times on research showing that the power of friend-influence is so great it even has a significant effect on your health.  The research was done by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler using data from the long-running Framingham Heart Study and published in July 2007 in the New England Journal of Medicine.  We see implications for social shopping, as well.

Findings from the study cited in the article include:

  • When a Framingham resident became obese, his or her friends were 57 percent more likely to become obese, too.
  • A Framingham resident was roughly 20 percent more likely to become obese if the friend of a friend became obese — even if the connecting friend didn’t put on a single pound.
  • A person’s risk of obesity went up about 10 percent even if a friend of a friend of a friend gained weight.
  • A friend taking up smoking increased your chance of lighting up by 36 percent, and if you had a three-degrees-removed friend who started smoking, you were 11 percent more likely to do the same.
  • If a person at a small firm stopped smoking, his or her colleagues had a 34 percent better chance of quitting themselves.
  • The article also cited, a 2006 Princeton study which found that having babies appears to be contagious: if your sibling has a child, you’re 15 percent more likely to have one yourself in the next two years.

So, if the example of thin friends can make someone thin, and the example of friends quitting smoking can help someone quit, imagine what seeing friends shop at your store does.