Triangulating for Success

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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.


  1. fwiw the HBT evidently agrees with you – the prediction about accidental influencers speakers directly to your thesis – tipping points are network effects, not individual ones… http://harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu/hbrsa/en/issue/0702/article/R0702A.jhtml#section1

    it also includes the word contagion so you’re bound to like it

  2. […] Speaking of the spread of online services like Twitter, those of you who don’t mind “sailor talk” (I don’t keep my own blog “clean” as I do this one) might be interested in this week’s DrunkAndRetired.com podcast. After a large cup of coffee, I found myself in a 30 minute tear about Twitter (both the “basics” and theory of why it got so popular), Jyte, and crowd-sourced identity. […]

  3. Stephen,

    I think you are making a great point; you absolutely need passionate users before a community can really start to grow.

    Too often people, including myself, still try for the top-down traditional marketing push.

    Good post.


  4. I assume everyone has already read “The Tipping Point”? If not, it’s worth the $12 or whatever it is now on Amazon.com.

  5. James: great link – the HBR article is excellent.

    Ian: i wouldn’t beat yourself up too badly; marketing to influencers is a natural shortcut to reaching out to populations. it’s just important to recognize the limitations of the approach.

    Mike: lots of folks still haven’t, so good reminder.

  6. […] O’Grady from RedMonk makes a very very important point in ‘Triangulating for Success‘. Marketing and PR types are always trying to get ‘key influencers’ to use and/or […]

  7. […] calls this triangulation. […]

  8. […] that I was somewhat slow to try it out. After a few weeks Alex mentioned he was using it as well. Triangulation had been achieved: I got an account and tried it […]

  9. […] Here’s how I’ve described this before: The concept is simple: a single pointer to a new technology, service or whatever – even from a […]

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