The Tipping Point and social media

Jonas Klit Nielsen from Mindjumpers This is not a post about when social media hits the Tipping Point; it’s more a bunch of some initial thoughts on a part of Malcom Gladwell´s theory and who in social media it applies to.

Said from the beginning – I would like your comments and thoughts on this – so please while reading, prepare yourself to leave those valuable thoughts.

At Mindjumpers, we have for a while now been looking into the first part of the Tipping Point theory, the part of how things go viral, not through the quantity of people, but through the quality.

Malcolm Gladwell describes (in short) the three different types of people who individually and in the right context at the right time make things go viral.

The Connecter – a great networking person, who is connected to a bunch of people, these types of people are the reason why we are all connected by six degrees of separation, according to Gladwell.

The Maven – the persons you just listen to, because you know they are experts on the area they are talking about, experts is actually not even the right word, they are beyond.

The Salesman – the person that with fire and enthusiasm can sell or convince you of anything.

Now Gladwell’s theory got published back in 2000, before the revolution of social media. And this is also what makes it so interesting to me – the theory must have changed in some ways, or made even more relevant than ever.

With social media, we see close to ordinary people on Twitter with 30,000 followers and celebs with more than 2,000,000 followers. On Facebook, it varies from person profiles with 200 to 5,000 friends (the limit for a personal profile, but read yesterday’s post on that), but we also see people with less than interesting fan pages having more than a million members.

Social media have put a rocket up in the ass of Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point

So the world is more connected than ever, the amount of ideas, sounds, videos, articles, etc. is larger and spreading faster. Does the same theory apply, or has the long tail theory taken over?

Here’s What I Think

I think the same theory applies, I think social media have put a rocket up in the ass of Malcolm Gladwell’s theory. We see people on Twitter getting a shitload of followers, but do people listen or share? 

Some say that the average twitter can expect less than 5% of it followers to retweet your posts (if you’re lucky) – now that does not start something viral, only 1 out of a million times. However, looking at my own little area of interest, social media, and looking at who can actually create viral spreading, the above mentioned theory still applies.

Take a guy like Chris Brogan – he is a great salesman, he is enthusiastic about his topics, but most importantly, he knows how to sell his messages. 

Take the bloggers from Mashable or TechCrunch, I would call them mavens – I instinctly trust what they write because they seem like people who live and breathe for what they write about.

For the connecters, I am more in the dark, because a true connecter lives his life for building his network, he knows the people in his network and the person brings people together in the network. 

I do see people on Facebook and Twitter with a lot of friends or followers, but they often seem more like the collector of people than the genuine connecter types.

Seth Godin is one of the people striking me as a connecter. If you get involved in his network, make contact with him, he (from his own writing) will reply to you. He seems to have a genuine interest in the people he connects with.

Now when any of the above mentioned says something, writes an article or shares an idea, people spread it – it will go viral in some way or the other, and it will do so incredibly fast. I read in “The Stories of Facebook, YouTube & Myspace – the people, the hype and the deals behind the giants of web 2.0” by Sarah Lacy, that the three guys behind YouTube, in the beginning were sitting in their basement, trying everything to get the word out about YouTube – even ads in the paper. 

However, it was a combination of the video “where the hell is Matt” (great content, for the nostalgics, check it out below) and an article by the editor of TechCrunch that kick started the hype of YouTube (note: in 2007, Jawed Karim, one of the guys that founded YouTube, said that Harding’s video is his favorite video posted to Youtube).

I will do more research and work more on this subject, but first I would love if you would share your thoughts with me on the matter.

The author, Jonas Klit Nielsen is co-founder and Managing Partner of Mindjumpers, a Copenhagen based social media agency. Jonas works with various companies developing strategies for implementing and creating value through the use of social media. As a blogger it’s his aim to share the strategic insights and thoughts, generated through his agency’s work. You can connect with Jonas on Twitter here.

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

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