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Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable Word of Mouth Movements by Spike Jones, Geno Church, Greg Cordell, Robbin Phillips

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Chapter 3. Movements Have Inspirational Leadership

Let's go ahead and get the whole talk about influence out of the way—a debate that's been raging on for a while now. On one side of the aisle, you've got Malcolm Gladwell and his tipping point theory, which boils down to how a select few folks are the ones who start the trends. They are the early adopters, the mavens, the influential ones. Also on this side of the aisle is Ed Keller's book The Influentials, whose premise claims that "one out of every ten Americans tells the other nine how to vote, where to eat, and what to buy." Keller's research shows that these people are "market multipliers"—people who are disproportionately asked for their advice by others and as a result are more likely to offer recommendations.

Based on these theories—which seem to make total sense when one initially considers them—the rage today is for agencies and brands to try to find these prized influencers, these people with huge blog audiences or tens of thousands of followers on Twitter. They think that if they can seed their product with that group, then not only will they tell their networks about it, but since they are the cool kids, everybody will want to be like them and copy their every move and every purchase. Got it?

Now let's set that aside and look at the other side of the aisle, which features Duncan Watts, a network-theory scientist from Columbia University with a long list of credentials. Watts's own research has found that "highly connected ...

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