In a session at Forrester’s Marketing Forum, Forrester analysts Josh Bernoff and Augie Ray presented research findings on peer influence and word of mouth marketing. The presentation was rife with practical tips for marketers thought worth sharing.

Ray outlined a Peer Influence Pyramid that breaks down influencers into three types: Social Broadcasters (at the top), Mass Influencers (middle), and Potential Influencers (bottom of the pyramid).

Social Broadcasters are few in number but great in scale – they are the top bloggers, most well-connected individuals, and have a lot of followers looking to them for news and advice on the latest and greatest. They have scale but lack trust, in the sense that their followers will click on the links and recommendations they share but still perform their own evaluation of the data – this makes Social Broadcasters better suited for awareness than preference.

At the bottom of the pyramid are the Potential Influencers – this is where the trust really is. These are the proverbial “average consumer” who have primarily networks of people they actually know in an offline context (friends, family, peers). These networks are rich with trust, and make up 84% of the total population of the pyramid.

In the middle are the Mass Influencers, who make up only 16% of the pyramid but account for 80% of the influence impressions about products and services. Ray says of this group, “you can’t ignore the minority that creates the majority of the influence.” You also need different strategies to reach the different types of influencers.

Photo by iprole.

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