With the rapid adoption of social media, we have accelerated into a network economy. In a network economy, connectivity enables value to be created and shared by network members. The larger the network, the greater the potential benefits. In the digital world, network activities take place on an open platform that enables participation and cloud computing (think Wikipedia and widgets).
In networks, some members are more connected and active, and therefore have more influence. These influentials are important members because they add significantly more value to the network. In the digital world, they blog, twitter, upload videos, experiment with new gadgets, and create widgets. As early adopters, they tend to be trendsetters that are followed by their friends and sometimes the masses. The book, the Whuffie Factor, talks about Social Capital, and how our society is increasingly motivated to become more useful and creative. Today, more people want to be influencers, and they want to be enabled.
In 2009, Twitter has emerged as one of the most talked about platforms in the network economy. Indeed, there is a simple network exchange on Twitter: influencer creates bite-size content, and follower discovers new information. Here are a few examples of the exchange:
- Gavin Newsom, mayor of San Francisco and California Governor Candidate, has over 500,000 followers. He keeps his followers informed about upcoming events and fundraising, and enables them to interact with him directly.
- Mike Massimino, a NASA astronaut, has over 400,000 followers. He combines his human life story with a behind the scenes look at being an astronaut.
- And of course there is Oprah, approaching 1.4 million followers.
Twitter makes it easy to share your voice and build your presence in the community. RegularGeek’s comment sums up the value: “Even someone like myself, and I do not have a huge social media presence, can talk to and possibly influence about five thousand people. If I have two thousand subscribers on the blog, Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook, the number of unique people could be around 5,000. That is direct contact, and the network effects could create an audience much larger.”
While we are all familiar with Twitter, there are many more communities that engage and enable an influential audience with network principles. One of the key elements of a network is the idea of reciprocity. The idea of “I win, you lose” doesn’t work in a network, or it will fall apart. Instead, there must be mutual win-win exchanges. One such example is at Triggerstreet, was founded in 2002 by Academy Award Winner Kevin Spacey, which is a community for emerging artists. The promise of the network is to democratize exposure and offer a career boost through a network of peers who review your work, rate it, and provide feedback. Further, the network has engaged influentials in the form of participating judges, including Michael Myers, Sean Penn, Snoop Dog, Sheryl Crow, and Liv Tyler.
It is this very concept of participation by influentials that is becoming increasingly important with each passing day. In our world of choice and overcapacity, influentials are an important element of the decision making process. As we de-emphasize paid media such as television commercials and print ads, the power of earned media and word of mouth is amplified. As you consider new ways to share your story and build your reputation, learn from entrepreneurial initiatives that listen to and engage the influentials.
Our first example is Jodangle which helps you listen to and monitor the online chatter by influentials. In an environment where influential content originates from an exploding number of information sources, Jodange provides intelligence on who and what is influencing customers, competitors, and the overall marketplace. In April 2009, Jodangle received $1.2 million of investments.
Our second and third examples are currently in development at DreamIt Ventures, which helps entrepreneurs launch their ventures and build great companies. Trendsta is a new way for trendsetting teens to test and review the latest hot products. Like BuzzAgent, the principal is that word-of-mouth marketing is powerful. Trendsta has even more of a laser focus on the influentials by engaging trendy teens in the digital world. Our final example is Scribnia, which is a rating and discovery engine for bloggers and columnists. Much like Triggerstreet, the promise is to build an influential community that is engaged in sharing creative work and providing feedback.
Consider your role in the network economy. How you are going to add value to and expand your network? As you build your presence and your reputation, listen to the conversation around you, pursue authentic participation, and engage influentials who can amplify your message.