Bill Nichols

2 May 2014

Bill Nichols

016 – May 2014

Social Influence – Three Key Touch-Points

You know that social media stuff works.  It’s always worth a punt.  But you’re not quite sure when, how or in what combination with other tactics you get ‘influence’.  Should you ‘pension off’ some old tools – like classic direct marketing – completely.

So what exactly do we know?  So far we have: firm principles; clear integration models for the process of exposure, feedback and engagement and exchange; and, from telecoms to pharma and online retailing, mounting evidence.  Research confirms the positive effects of social influence (or, unattractively, ‘social contagion’) on adoption.

As a result, social network marketing is part of the marketer’s canon.

Now new tech-product based research (*) offers more.  More than a direction of travel.  More than a punt. It’s founded on analysis of interactions and influence among relevant consumers.  It suggests three key touch-points to begin to manipulate social influence with some precision.

First Up, Catching Earliest Adopters

In the product cycle, the research finds, it is the earliest customer adopters – properly the pioneers – who exert the greatest social influence.  Further, if stimulated by traditional direct marketing, their incidence and power is augmented.

Tactically, this combination offers maximum early market impact.

It’s like the match to a newly-laid fire.  Early investment in classic MGC (marketer-generated content) kindles UGC’s (user-generated content) influence.   But, it seems, traditional potency flickers and quickly dies.  After launch, marketers should cut spend rapidly.

Second, Extending Online Sharing

But there is no time ‘bar’ on social influence.  Intriguingly, irrespective of time of purchase, each new adopter contributes independent effects.  The quantum of individual power depends not on timing but on:

  • ·         ‘Strength of tie’ – where the unique aspect of virtual communities relates to help asked                        and provided and the desire to meet in person –
  • ·         And homophily (degree of similarity, the ‘birds of a feather’ principle). 

Solely for his or her own close personal connections, each new adopter is like a pioneer.  A new burning ember.  So, long after launch, to continue to stimulate online sharing behaviour with appropriate content and incentives is a viable mid-term strategy.

But important distinction:  simply to rely on cumulative positive adoption effects across a customer’s wider network is unlikely to succeed.  In line with the fading (even negative) effects of simply repeated messages reported in my recent blog, The Power of Three, traction is lost.   Sparks may fly but will not kindle.

Third, Referral Anytime

Finally, by extension, the constant potential of new adoptions indicates that referral campaigns may be effective at any point – even very late in the product cycle.  Rather than general social pressure, it is the one-to-one power of those with strong ties or homophilous contacts which generates results.  And the fire sustained.

It suggests that careful mapping of prospective customers is a great investment.

Contagious even!


(*) Risselada, H., et al (2014), Dynamic Effects of Social Influence and Direct Marketing on the Adoption of High-Technology Products.   Journal of Marketing 78 (2).                                                


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *