creative engagement connect

The compelling choir of influence

Ripples of reach? Photo by Tom Godber, via Flickr, used through a Creative Commons license.

Ripples of reach? Photo by Tom Godber, via Flickr, used through a Creative Commons license.

This post is from guest blogger Briana Tomkinson, a strategist and one of our trusted partners. 

Influence is one of the more misunderstood concepts in marketing today. Despite many attempts to evaluate and measure it, quantifying influence is very difficult. Most attempts to measure it depend on complicated algorithms that evaluate individuals based on the number of followers or degree of fame, and use “reach” as a proxy for influence. New research suggests, however, that small nudges from a variety of acquaintances can be more compelling than the call to action of any one individual.

Influence is contextual and social. While trust, affinity, and reputation impact how influential an individual person is, even individuals with low levels of quantifiable influence can unknowingly influence others when what they say is reinforced by others who are part of a different social circle.

A recent study on the behaviour of Facebook users suggests it often isn’t any one individual ‘influencer’ who can take credit for changing other people’s behaviour. Nor is it the sheer number of repetitions of a message. Rather, it is the compelling choir of many individuals from diverse social circles repeating a similar action or suggestion that is more likely to convince.

The study’s findings include:

  • A person is much more likely to join Facebook if that person has friends on Facebook who do not know each other — a structurally diverse network — than if that person’s friends are all connected on the site. “The number of distinct social contexts represented on Facebook … predicts the probability of joining.”
  • An invitation to join Facebook that listed four unrelated site users sent to a potential user was more than twice as likely to prompt the individual to join than an invitation that listed four connected users. “It is not the number of people who have invited you, nor the number of links among them, but instead the number of connected components they form that captures your probability of accepting the invitation.”
  • Once a user joins Facebook, the structural diversity of his or her network also impacts the level of engagement: more active Facebook users have friends on the site spanning numerous social circles. “Simply counting connected components leads to a muddled view of predicted engagement…. However, extending the notion of diversity according to any of the definitions above suffices to provide positive predictors of future long-term engagement.”

The researchers conclude that “these findings suggest an alternate perspective for recruitment to political causes, the promotion of health practices and marketing; to convince individuals to change their behavior, it may be less important that they receive many endorsements than that they receive the message from multiple directions.”

On Facebook, a variety of social circles collide. In your news feed you may find an ‘inspirational’ Bible quote from your religious aunt, a sonogram picture from a former colleague you haven’t seen in person for several years, an Instagram photo of your best friend sipping a margarita on the beach, oddly juxtaposed with a dirty joke from your buddy from high school and a link to a strident blog post from an old college classmate on the political scandal of the day. If a motley crew of folks like these all make the same suggestion, you’re much more likely to be persuaded to take action. Because if all those different people from different aspects of your life are talking about it,  it must be worth checking out, right?

About Jen Arbo

Jen has more than a decade of experience managing projects and coordinating teams to stay on-task and on-budget. She is an experienced event coordinator, an adept copywriter and social media community manager. You can find her on Twitter at @jenarbo