Contrary to popular belief, you can’t just wake up one day and decide to create an Internet meme. Something doesn’t go viral until it has been thoroughly embraced and shared by the masses. And how does it get to that point? People who have unique insight and respect from their peers influence other people. And, therefore, play an important role in helping the content, meme, or idea along. The word that we use to describe these kinds of people is “influencer” (I also have friends and strategists who prefer “tastemaker” — but only the hip ones. Influencer is pretty industry standard).
Malcolm Gladwell wrote in The Tipping Point that, “A very small number of people are connected to everyone else in a few steps — the rest of us are linked to the world through those special few.” One of my favorite thinkers in the space and another DC powerhouse Geoff Livingston discusses Gladwell’s theory and several others in his book Welcome to the Fifth Estate — including an entire section on the “History of Influencer Theory” on the social web.
As with the Big Bang and the extinction of dinosaurs, there’s not just one theory about influencers, there are several. Livingston breaks it down like this:
To visualize how these theories all come together in the social web, Livingston partnered with JESS3 to create The State of Influencer Theory infographic. Here’s the result of our first brainstorming session:
And the evolution of the infographic:
And the final product (click to enlarge):
I am interested to see if there are further (re)evolutions of the theories and the activity of influencers. I tend to think we are not going to change a whole lot from our current state of what motivates and influences us, but I love being proved wrong. What’s your take?
Tags: allison fine, ben mcconnell, beth kanter, charlene li, chris brogan, Data Visualization, david sifry, duncan watts, fred wilson, Free Agents, geoff livingston, History of Influencer Theory, influencer, infographic, infographics, Internet meme, jackie huba, josh bernoff, julien smith, malcolm gladwell, old spice guy, One Percenters, Six Degrees/Weak Ties, tastemaker, The Groundswell, The Magic Middle, The State of Influencer Theory, The Tipping Point, viral content, Welcome to the Fifth Estate