Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thoughts on influence..

--Influence-- Ample term; loaded term and very important one for the Social Media space…

The influence we have on others and others have on us is (just like many other aspects of Social) a consequence of old instincts embedded in the human nature..
  • If you don’t know the restaurants on this street, but you can see one of them is almost empty and the other almost full; which one would you choose? (Assuming all other things are equal)..
  • You arrive at an intersection and the traffic light is not working; there is a man in the middle of it with dark clothes and a yellow vest; would you follow his direction and stop/go as instructed?
  • Your neighbor helped you jump start your car a few weeks ago; have you been attentive to his needs? Would you be more likely to help him given the help he gave you before?
  • The car geek fanatic that you have known since high school makes a public statement about the virtues of a new car; unbeknownst to him you are looking for a new vehicle and you were hesitant between this model and another one.. is this person’s opinion going to influence your choice?
We have evolved with a set of embedded social behaviors that have helped us achieve wonderful things as a society: in unknown circumstances we watch what others are doing and tend to fall in line, we pay attention and respect authority, we help those that have helped us (or may be in the position to help us in the future), we understand relevancy of expertise and filter input accordingly.

What has been happening lately is that technology is eliminating friction… we can quickly see what many others are doing (i.e. Oldspice) and if we have the slightest inclination (need) for the product/service we will likely follow, it is now very easy to give/receive from others and return in kind (i.e. Farmville or other virtual gifts that you likely received in Facebook), Retailers create and apply authority schemes to help drive participation and sales (i.e. Amazon), Manufacturers make sure you know what others (and maybe others like you) think about their products (i.e. Intuit)

When the print with movable type was invented the profession of scribes died but many new ones were born or simply exploded up (i.e. teachers, librarians, etc.); I wonder what is the equivalent n the advent of an era where the influence we all have on each other will be quantifiable (domain, speed, volume, etc.) and likely publicly available (based on digital breadcrumbs we all create daily).

What do you think?

Filiberto Selvas


esteban kolsky said...

Very interesting point: influence has not changed, it simply has been brought to the forefront due to wider availability of information (hope i got that half right at least).

I would tend to agree with you, the more influential opinions are propagated, the more (and faster) we are influenced.

However, all this does it bring to the forefront of this discussion (or it should) the way to rank and recognize that influence. Alas, we brought forth the discussion of what (or who) is influential: another smoke screen. If we could focus on how to recognize and score influence, the who and what of influence will answer itself.

at least that is my position (not very influential though :))

Steve Haase said...

Filiberto, thanks for your thoughts on the topic. I see you've studied your Cialdini :) -- for my money there's no quicker way to understand the automatic mechanisms of influence that drive so much of our behavior, often without us even being aware of our motivations.

This is an important conversation to be having, since the new digital tools are ushering in a new landscape for influence and how we're able to impact each other's lives.

For instance, we still listen to our friends (the people we like) to find out which websites we should check out. The difference now, though, is that our "friends" can be both ones sitting right next to us, or names and pictures that we've never met before, and maybe never will.

It really changes the playing field for anyone who wants to have an impact in the world.

Filiberto Selvas said...

Thanks for your comments!

Esteban: yes; that is the point. However it is true that when something is radically accelerated & increased you can't quite call it "the same old thing". As for the "how to recognize & rank" I captured some of my own humble thoughts in this article: and Michael Wu has done great work in the space (as you well know); an example can be found here:

Steve: Indeed credit to Cialdini ( many others that have studies & explained these behaviors so well. You are hitting the main aspect in the back of my mind as I wrote this post: We all are influential in one way or another, most of us are taking that influence online and (knowingly or not) making it public and available for others to understand and use... What does this mean in terms of new subject matter expertise? what older SME will be affected?

Filiberto Selvas

Filiberto Selvas said...

Here a link to HP Research ("What makes a tweet influential") that is very relevant to this subject: