Some of these people are not like the others....
I find it surprising how there are two very mistaken and large camps of people who deny the reality of the influencers:
The first camp tends to embrace open source, democratic web practice but completely ignores the fact that even in a democracy effort and enthusiasm is not blind,. There are only so many people who run for office, go on the campaign trail, sign up as party members and in most cultures, less than half even vote themselves. In practice, democracy has a fair degree of inequality of interest.
The second camp believes that there is an elitist posse of Jimmy Choo-wearing, Armani-suit garbed celebrity insiders who are the pathway to influence regardless of category. So get the Paris Hiltons and Lindsay Lohans of your world, and generate the pathway to buzz and word of mouth gold.
Both camps, if they're truly interested in spreading their ideas, fail to comprehend the power of "The Influencers". They are blinded to their own idiosyncratic beliefs or tap into very shallow knowledge of how ideas diffuse.
It simply is true - influencers are the high priests of your word of mouth. If anything, the social web has revealed just how much clout they do have.
- Blogs - high authority bloggers post 300 times more frequently than low authority bloggers
- LinkedIn - people with incomes over $200k have a 7 times more likelihood to have +150 connections
- Twitter - 10% of Twitterers compose 90% of the tweets
- Wikipedia - 1.8% of the visitors compose 70% of the articles
- Digg - the top 100 users post 56% of the front page content
- Influencers - have twice as many social connections as other people
In most categories - a contingent of less than 15% of your audience represents the majority of credibility, collaborative and word of mouth capacity that your compnay, brand, cause or idea can feasibly generate.
These people are not cloned. There are six key types of influencers, each with different motivations, different talents and different traits, and each important for ideas to cross the chasm: tastemakers, trendspotters, opinion leaders, experts, grassroots celebrities and social ringleaders.
Many of these constituencies are ignored in favour of the flashiest, the earliest, the loudest or the crankiest.
Regardless of your professional or personal orientation, Gladwell had it right "the answer is the success of any type of social epidemic relies on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of gifts."