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The biggest influencers are not the most connected

A new research study by CNET – Understanding Influence, and Making It Work For You: A CNET Networks Study (full PDF here – via Guy Kawasaki) – finds that many word of mouth programs may in fact be targeted at the wrong people.

The three-part research found that because of their sheer number, the group of people who wields the most influence is in fact not the most connected but instead the moderately connected.

Other interesting findings from the research include:

  • Influencers are primarily motivated by the desire to help others – not to demonstrate and get recognition for their expertise
  • Most people have multiple areas of interest and influence others in more than one category
  • People consider information to be valuable if it is BOTH unique and trustworthy, and sources that provide unique and trusted information will be referred over and over again
  • Influencers tend to be active members in their online communities
  • influencers rely so heavily on technology, information that is provided in easily shareable electronic formats is much more likely to be forwarded

The conclusion of the report: “Influence is not, in fact, exclusive, but is something we all share. Influence is not a function of charisma so much as it’s a function of human nature – people are alike in more ways than they differ.”

Of course, we need to keep in mind that this study is sponsored by an organization that benefits from marketers taking a broad shot-gun approach to marketing/advertising instead of trying to pinpoint content/messages to a select few.

Nevertheless, it does provide a few interesting questions that you may want to ask yourself before engaging in your next marketing campaign:

  • Is the information you make available to communities unique and trustworthy? Can it be coming from you, the marketer, or should you find other people to tell your stories?
  • Is your information actionable and retell-able?
  • Are you targeting the right communities, or are you being narrow minded in the way you focus on communities of interest?
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