Cumulus Partners

1. March 2010 17:32

A good reason for rereading "The Tipping Point"

1. March 2010 17:32 by mike barlow | 5 Comments

Because the basic activities of social media strategy often play out in solitude -- lonely figures hunched over their laptops, typing furiously -- it's sometimes hard to remember that a core characteristic of all social media is multiple cycles of human interactions. In other words, social media is very social! Social media strategy doesn't work without lots of human beings -- their thoughts and emotions are the raw fuel that keeps the process going.

I thought of this as I considered a question being raised by some of the more farsighted executives I know. The question is: Does a person need special talent to succeed as a social media practitioner, or can just about anyone do it? Or more pointedly, they ask, will the organization have to go out and hire a bunch of specialists to develop, manage and execute successful social media campaigns?

The correct answer is probably yes, and no. Yes, some people with special talent will be required to staff an ongoing social media function. But some of these people can be recruited from the ranks of existing staff.

Anyone who is considering these questions seriously needs to reread "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell. I know, you've already read it. That's what I thought when they asked us to read it for the class on social media strategy that I'm taking at SUNY Purchase. I thought, hey, I've read that book twice, and I thought it was kinda interesting, but obvious, shallow, pop culture, etc...

But I was hellbent on keeping a positive attitude, so I reread it. And I'm glad I did. Gladwell's take on the difference between Paul Revere and William Dawes contains some terrific insight that every manager needs to keep front and center when making hiring or staffing decisions for key social media positions. Basically, Gladwell notes that you need three kinds of influencers to make things happen: Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen.

His observation applies to staffing up for social media initiatives; you'll need the right mix of talents to make it work. And before you start hiring, do yourself a favor and dig out your old copy of Gladwell's book.

Comments (5) -

Mike- Excellent post.  One of my favorite books.  The new site looks great!


The site looks great...clean, easy, straightforward and to the point.  Love it!  You point out some interesting parallels and comments on social media and The Tipping Point blogpost.  My view:  Social Media is a new "channel" for marketers to heed and is the strong, new voice and tone of the Brand (company, personal, geographic location, product, etc.).  It is  viral, immediate, global, unedited (for the most part), and has no bias for the content categories of fact/emotion/photos/videos/happiness/anger/truth/lie and has no reverse or delete button.  Hello to the Brave New World of Marketing and Branding.  The consumer is in control and knows it and marketers need to reinvent their approaches to live in this new reality.


I'm with you on this one.

My $.02. Social media is supercharged word of mouth. Tipping Point has it just right on viral word of mouth. When it was written it was about phone calls. But if the question is how do ideas or memes go viral, it's all in there. The only real difference is the speed. I doubt that even Gladwell could have predicted the effect of real time web connection.

I have a feeling the following is going to sound over the top, even for me, but I do mean it seriously. (It still might be wrong.)

The real time web connected to physical objects is resulting in the most profound changes in how we do what we do in 500 years.

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