Tipping Point in epidemics and the law of the few

Promotion, Social

How do you spread the word out once you have a remarkable web application?

Your existing user base is the number one sales person for you, there is no question on that. You cannot beat the power of collective word of mouth with any sales organization or structure. But you can help it grow even faster consciously (and of course with some luck as well).

Malcolm Gladwell, in his marvelous book “Tipping Point”, examines the phenomenon of how the epidemics spread so fast. He defines the Tipping Point as the moment when an Idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold and spreads like wildfire.

Malcolm GladwellThe three rules of epidemics per Malcolm are the law of the few, the stickiness factor and the power of context. The book is brilliant and filled with interesting stories like how the crime rate in New York significantly dropped in the beginning of 1990s or how the shoe company called Airwalk become so popular in such a short time and so on. At the end there is no magic and no straight forward formula on how to make your message go viral. But on this book, Malcolm provides a solid framework on the important factors and players that are vital for any epidemic including yours.

On this post, I will touch base only on the first one. The rest will be continued on the other posts.

The law of the few.

Three different type of characters are crucial in this context. First one is called connectors; who know people, I mean many people. We know not everyone is the same in terms of social connection, and there are some special people who are very well connected. I am not talking about the number of twitter or even Facebook connections here, but real connections, face to face friendships, companionships. Malcolm explains this with the experiment that the psychologist Miller conducted in 1960s. He asked 160 random people to send one letter to a stockbroker who lives on the other coast. The catch was that you would have to send the letter to one of your friends who would get the package closer to the stockbroker. The idea was to understand how many times it will take the letter to be delivered to the stockbroker. Milgram found out at the end that it took on average six steps to get the letter delivered; where we get the six degrees of separation concept. But more interestingly, he also found out that each degrees were not the same. Half of the all letters delivered to the stockbroker were delivered by only three people. Considering that 160 people were randomly selected, it was astonishing to find out that eventually these three well connected people got the half of the letters. The connectors are crucial not only because they know many people, but because they know many influential people. Knowing one surely helps.

Second group of people, as important as the first group, are the Mavens; who are knowledgeable about many things, following the deals closely and help people solve their friend’s problems with tips. What sets them apart is not just how much they know but how they relay the information. The desire to help you know about the deal or product, makes the message so compelling because it is coming from your friend you trust.

Third ones are the Sales People; who persuade. As Malcolm puts, it is not as straight forward as it seems to define persuasiveness, but you can tell when you see one. It is not just the verbal cues but also the non verbal cues that makes a person persuasive. Especially on this non verbal cues, Malcolm gets in much more detail on his other book called Blink, how the unconscious mind work, and how it is so important in decision making for all of us. It is a must read book as well.

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