Why ordinary people are more important than opinion leaders

Paul Adams (former Google, now Facebook) argues that the importance of so-called “influencers” is overrated. Ultimately, people’s behavior is more influenced by people in their inner circle (strong ties), than by strangers (weak or temporary ties). Research on buying behavior and decision making consistently shows that we’re disproportionally influenced by the opinions and actions of the people we are closest to emotionally: family, friends and maybe co-workers. “Influentials,” the highly connected people, can only make us aware. But they’re not going to spark big changes in behavior. 

More about it in this presentation on Slideshare.

It reminds me of the paper a few years ago by Duncan Watts from Yahoo!, who analyzed email patterns and found that highly connected people are not, in fact, crucial social hubs. Even the breakout success of a hot new pop band might be nearly random. More about that here.

I wonder why this topic keeps coming up. Is it because marketers are hoping to find a silver bullet to viral marketing? 

O, and big thanks to Ingmar for pointing me to Paul Adams’ presentation.