Influentials or Accidentals? Investigating Interpersonal Influence in the Telecommunications Market

Sarah Macdonald
TNS Global

Advocates of influencer marketing usually divide consumers into two broad groups: the influential and the influenced. By identifying those individuals who are the most highly connected and influential, they hope to harness these individuals' capacity for spreading positive word of mouth about products and brands. But does it make sense to divide consumers in this way? Is influence a mere function of network size and connectivity or is it more complex than that? Do factors such as product knowledge, interest in a product category or brand attachment affect how influential or easily influenced consumers are within a given product category? And how does this impact the way in which marketers communicate with consumers?

Drawing on data collected in a global telecoms study, this paper investigates consumers' propensity to influence and be influenced by one another. It asserts that the influentials hypothesis provides an over-simplified view of how trends spread. While it is possible to separate those who are more influential from those who are not, interpersonal influence doesn't simply cascade though a social group. As not all consumers communicate about products and services in the same way, and relay on a variety of sources, marketers are unlikely to reach as many consumers as they hope by investing in key influencers. They should rather use their resources to provide the information that consumers are looking for to inform their purchase decisions. In this way, they will be better able to influence purchase intent in the technology sector and beyond.

The rise of influencer marketing