Ed Keller, who co-authored the book THE INFLUENTIALS, answered some of the recent criticism of the concepts popularized by his book on Media Post’s Marketing Daily today. Based on decades of research through the Roper Polls, Keller’s book and his work at RoperASW, along with Malcolm Gladwell’s THE TIPPING POINT, popularized the concept of a small number of Americans (say 10%) determining how the rest consume and live by chatting about their likes and dislikes.
The concept of influencers was not a new one at the time Keller’s book was published. A hundred years after John Stuart Mill penned these words on opinion leaders, research began to empirically prove the concept:
The mass do not now take their opinions from dignitaries in Church or State, from ostensible leaders, or from books. Their thinking is done for them by men much like themselves, addressing or speaking in the name, on the spur of the moment...
-John Stuart Mill, ON LIBERTY
In short, Keller tries to refute Guy Kawasaki’s October blog post that declared: "Reliance on influentials is flawed because the Internet has flattened and democratized information..." maintaining that "it's better to have an army of committed nobodies than a few drive-by somebodies."
I think Kawasaki, like Mill, is correct. Yes, I just paired Kawasaki and John Stuart Mill. Everyone is influenced by their 10%, which differs from group to group, a point Keller acknowledges. As Kawasaki points out, social media has flattened how information flows. I think using a traditional top down approach is becoming less effective and I don’t think Keller would dispute that statement.
To me, it is pretty simple. Consumers respond to a quality product, a compelling story and are apt to tell others about their positive experience.
It always comes back to the perceived value of the product and how you communicate that value. The online tools available to spread that message, both positively and negatively, are now flatter and faster than ever before and the access to people and influences has never been greater.
As David Oligivy pointed out many years ago,
The consumer isn't a moron; she is your wife. You insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything. She wants all the information you can give her.
It does not matter how many bloggers, followers, friends, media personalities, or perceived influencers you have promoting your product if there is no value. Creating a needed product or service, testing it to ensure it fulfills those needs, and communicating value are the three keys to success that everyone should focus on despite the available technologies to communicate the message.