Social media marketers are continually confronted with the same question – where and how do we plant the seeds that will make campaigns “go viral?” How do we identify consumers that will be truly powerful brand advocates?
A Marketing Science Institute Report suggests that theories about the value of identifying well-connected influencers who are centrally located within a network of peers are correct, with heavy users the most influential. The report cites a study in which researches attempt to measure the viral adoption of a potentially lethal new drug distributed through a network of physicians in various cities. Some of these physicians were self-identified opinion leaders, while others had been chosen through a complex process that identified them at various locations within a network of physicians and patients.
Interestingly, there seems to be an argument for the use of polls to identify social influencers. In the study, not only were self-identified influencers just as successful in marketing the drug than their counterparts, but they also were “less responsive” to the behavior of their peers. Although the study is not clear on what exactly this means, it seems to mean that they stayed on message more often than their counterparts.
So how is this study relevant to social media marketing? In the eyes of most social marketers, what are Facebook or Twitter users if not potential “prescribers” of brands, products and opinions? With so many approaches and theories yet untested about online social influence, looking to offline studies is an essential component to an evidence-based marketing approach.