Look who's talking: Understanding social influence online

Jason Mander

Searching for the social influencer

Social commentators have long argued that "influencers" exist and that, if effectively identified and mobilised, they can reap mighty rewards for brands. Perhaps one of the most well-known advocates of this model – Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point – championed the existence of such "super consumers" when Facebook was but a twinkle in Mark Zuckerberg's eye and when the concept of a tweet or hashtag would have elicited utter bewilderment. We all knew the potential power of a word-of-mouth endorsement, of course, but how influential could the individual really be?

Fast forward a few years and the quickly established social networking culture made this school of thought rather more compelling. And so, as the late 00s have given way to the early and now mid 10s, brand strategists the world over have been devoting ever more energy to campaigns designed to convert the well-connected social networker into that fabled being – the brand ambassador whose views and endorsements stimulate positive responses from their peers.