Understanding Influence Networks And How It Can Help Your Social Media Strategy

Rohit Awasthi
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social media influence network

If you have been associated with community management, social media or just bringing people together you must have seen this Influence Landscape. If you have not, please take a look.

social media influence network

This is an old image, produced in 2009 and you will see some not-so-in-rage names like digg etc. The underlying belief is that human decisions are influenced by various factors around us and as a marketeer we need to understand the various factors that come into play. With the rising influence of Facebook, it became easier for the marketeers to find out the relevance of their audience and hence the usage of these concepts was lost. I feel that we are slowly going back to the era of specialized networks again and the one-size-fits-all solutions will take a backseat in the coming months.

For me, the most interesting part of the above landscape is the Influence Networks. I have used it several times in my talks to explain it in detail and I have always found it insightful and immensely helpful while planning media campaigns. So let’s take a look at what these terms mean:

Network Density

The simplest of them all but misunderstood rather frequently. It is the size of the potential connections in the network which are actual connections. e.g. A college reunion might have a high network density because these people are connected via their alumni groups, LinkedIn etc. In contrast, people coming to an amusement park will constitute a low density network.

The way it is misunderstood frequently is when someone says — “College going kids form a high density network for smartphone users.”

Transmission Ratios

Ever played a game of Chinese Whispers?

From Wikipedia:

One person whispers a message to another, which is passed through a line of people until the last player announces the message to the entire group. Errors typically accumulate in the retellings, so the statement announced by the last player differs significantly, and often amusingly, from the one uttered by the first. Reasons for changes include anxiousness or impatience, erroneous corrections, and that some players may deliberately alter what is being said to guarantee a changed message by the end of the line.

As a marketing professional, you need to know how the people (gears) forming the network are transmitting the message. The gears should keep your messaging intact and ideally, amplify it.

Influence Agents

Some James Bond stuff this is! Influence Agents are those people who become an important node of your network over time but in reality are working on behalf of a competitor agency.

They are hard to detect and can potentially damage your campaign without you even realizing it. But knowing that they exist, just helps us to be cautious and look out for them.

 Cascade Windows

This is my personal favorite. Technically they are defined as an arrangement of windows which overlap one another. But how does it work in a network?

Let’s say that a person A buys something and B is in the habit of noticing whatever A does and getting influenced without knowing the parameters which contributed to A’s decision. In spite of that, B gets influenced and makes the same decisions as A. This leads to irrational decisions and people like B not using their own judgement before making a purchase.

This is exactly why during Court Martial in earlier times, the lowest ranked officer would give his decision first. This was instituted because it was seen that once a higher ranking officer had taken his decision, the lower ranking officers were bound to get influenced and follow their superior.

If you will look for examples around you, you will see the cascade windows effect taking place. You go for the movie about which a Facebook friend (whom you believe has a good taste in movies) gloats about. Now you know why iPhone sells!

I hope you enjoyed reading this and the 5 minutes you have spent reading this were well spent. Use them in your campaigns and would love it if you share more instances.

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