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TPR 4/28/21: How a little advertising changes word-of-mouth

TPR 4/28/21: How a little advertising changes word-of-mouth
By Mark Tosczak • Issue #10 • View online
2 minute read
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How a little advertising changes word-of-mouth
UCLA sociologist Gabriel Rossman says one of the primary conclusions of Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller The Tipping Point is wrong — or at least incomplete.
The book claimed that by finding the most popular person in a network, you could quickly spread an idea. Now we call this idea “influencer marketing.”
But Rossman and his colleagues theorize that in fact a little bit of mass media from outside the network, such as advertising, essentially neutralizes the power of the one big influencer.
According to simulations run by the researchers, information from outside the network essentially equalizes the influence of everyone in the network.
“It’s not that word-of-mouth doesn’t matter – it’s that nobody is particularly important for the word-of-mouth process,” Rossman said. “What we saw is that when advertising doesn’t exist, when advertising is exactly zero, it looks like whoever is Mr. Popular, whoever has the most central connections, really matters. And in that scenario, if you start with that person at the center of the network, like the leader of an organization or company, rather than the intern, then whatever you’re selling gets an uptick.”
But it takes only an incredibly weak amount of advertising to effectively neutralize the dominance of Mr. Popular, Rossman said. “Just a small amount changes the dynamic so that it practically doesn’t matter whether you start with Mr. Popular or the intern.”
So if you’re considering influencer marketing, it might be a better use of your budget to invest in a micro-influencer and supplement that spend with some advertising, rather than putting bunch of money behind one big name.
In upcoming issues:
  • Which persuasion principles worked best to boost survey responses from businesses
  • How the linguistic traits of a brand name affect brand value
  • Is Clubhouse addictive? One behavioral science expert’s analysis.
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Mark Tosczak

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