This post is a recap of my Keynote for I-XPERIENCE by @Milenar on the 11th of October at the Oceanário de Lisboa terrace. The slide deck can be found HERE.

My adventure with Social Influence started back in 2000 when I was the On Premise Channels Manager for Coca-Cola, and clients started asking me to sponsor 5.000 Eur DJs. The led me to investigate the why of a particular DJ, and sub-consequently to take a DJ course, become an International DJ - playing at Supperclub during the Amsterdam Dance Event, or at La Terrrazza in Barcelona to name a few -, and finally make a business out of that knowledge - designing and launching the Ballantine's Finest Clubbin Season in Portugal.

The key factor as a DJ is to "bring customers though the door". The challenge being how do you do that? You need to build your brand at the club, and in the public opinion. But again, the question is HOW?

After some trial and error experiments I started reading Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point. I like it so much, I made a presentation out of it so I could later apply those learnings. Never needed to. I know them by heart since that day.

There are two big ideas when talking about Social Influence.

The 1st is the 6 Degrees of Separation.

"Everyone and everything is 6 or less steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of "a friend of a friend" statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of 6 steps."

The Internet, and namely the Social etworks, brought us even closer. In facebook for example each person among the 1,59 B people active on Facebook is connected to every other person by an average of 3,57.

Facebook tells me I am separated from everyone by a mere 2,9 people while Zuckerberg has 3,17 degrees of separation. It looks like I am a Connector (see below for the definition).

The 2nd is the Tipping Point

"The Tipping Point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behaviour crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire." - Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point


But what makes those ideas, trends or social behaviours tip? The answer is in Malcolm's book. Basically you have to consider 3 factors:

  • The Law of the few: the success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.

These people can be: Connectors, a kind of social glue who know a lot of people, have a huge network and basically spread the message; Mavens from the Yiddish, Data Banks, or one who accumulate knowledge, active collectors of info and willing to share it, or provide the message; and finally the Salesmen, skilled to persuade anyone when unconvinced, making the message credible and providing "great customer service".

  • The Stickiness of the Message: There is a simple way to package information that, under the right circumstances, can make them irresistible… we just have to find such a way!

A major call for attention here as the information age has created a stockiness message such is the information and messages overload we are subjected too. To overcome this one have to tell it like a story with narrative becoming more and more important… In a simple and smart way! 

  • Power of Context: Good content is the intersection of viewer goals, the creator goals within a given context.

The key note here is the Fundamental Attribution Error or the fact that we reach for dispositional rather than the contextual explanation for events. In practice this means that when interpreting other people’s behaviour, we overestimate the importance the fundamental character traits and underestimate the importance of the situation and context. 

BUT, how do we put this in practice?

We can start by identifying the few who spread the message, and develop the narrative that best sticks within a given context.


Start by identifying the most prominent community within your network.


Then the most prominent People within that Community. Those can be highly connected people, people who are central to the community, and people who influence a certain community.

Next step is to creative the narrative that can be supported by analyzing these communities and people profile, knowing there interests. In this case the content relevant to startups does not necessarily appeal to Designers, and vice versa. By tailoring the message you can increase the message stickiness, hence its viral impact.

Finally, one needs to create the perfect environment, influencing the surroundings within the message to spread. This will nurture the sharing of the message.

As a quick summary:

  1. Tipping Points are the reaffirmation of the change potential for intelligent action,
  2. We are powerfully influenced by our surroundings our immediate context and the personalities around us,
  3. By fine tuning the presentation of information we can significantly improve the stickiness and remembrance,
  4. Simply by finding those few special people who hold so much social power we can shape the course of social epidemics, or messages.