If one accepts as a given that bottom up marketing is the increasingly most relevant approach from a technology marketing perspective; accepts, in other worlds, that David Kilcullen is correct and that the cold war paradigm of leaders negotiating with leaders desparately needs to give way to a model more focused on messaging populations, the logical question is what next?
Appealing to a population, after all, is a non-trivial task. The PR and marketing folks a bit ahead of the curve have started the business of identifying so-called “influencers” – individuals that may have more than a normal share of attention accorded to them. But as the volume of PR and marketers grows, the ability to effectively reach the influencer endpoints is diminished. Social networks, after all, are less efficient than their digital counterparts.
What’s important now, as I see it, is triangulation. I’m certainly not the first to mention this, but as it’s still poorly understood it warrants mentioning. The concept is simple: a single pointer to a new technology, service or whatever – even from a trusted source – is likely to have minimal impact, particularly if it requires effort to explore. But the second notice, from a trusted party, triggers a little click of recognition, and is far more likely to register. Further mentions only escalate this, until the interest to skepticism ratio tilts in favor of a trial.
This has been my experience with a variety of the services I use on a regular basis, from del.icio.us in the past to Twitter more recently. With almost no exceptions (Gmail’s one that comes to mind, Yubnub’s another), I heard of the service and largely ignored it, assuming – correctly, in most cases – that if it was important enough, I’d eventually be persuaded of that via visible adoption and usage. I’m slightly more proactive these days, as I usually will at least register my usual login just in case the service later proves useful, but I typically go right back to ignoring it following that initial signup. Until a certain number – never the same – of people I trust begin using it thus compelling me to take a second look.
What does this mean, for those of you charged with growing interest and communities? Just what you’re afraid that it does: that every user counts. That every user is a potential influencer. The notion of an easier to target, uber-class of influencer was a useful shortcut, but always a temporary one. It would behoove you, then, to work with your product managers and developers to ensure the lowest possible barriers to entry for the service. Because it’s going to be a lot easier to triangulate yourself some interest if the barriers are few. Otherwise you may be forced to quandrangulate or quintangulate yourself a new customer.