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Influence, shminfluence: You get the networks you deserve

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“It’s all about the networks.”

We say it, I say it, a lot. But I’m not sure that we’re really appreciating what that means.

In a way, Gladwell did us a disservice with the Tipping Point. It over-simplified networks, when the most important thing you need to understand about networks, especially human, social networks, is just how very, very complex they are.

And of course, the Tipping Point, or perhaps more the endless retelling of the Tipping Point by marketers, gave us, or bolstered further, the cult of the influentials.

Find them, these gatekeepers to the herd, the idea went, persuade them of the merits of your cause, or pay them to pretend, and the masses will adjust their perceptions accordingly and success will be yours.

I think you may be better off thinking about models, strategies, tactics for success communicating, influencing people in networks by looking at evolutionary models, complexity theory, than hunting the ever-elusive influencer.

And they did exist. And you find them. What are you going to do? Buy them?

As for the people you sometimes see in Twitter and elsewhere proclaiming themselves to be influencers by dint of a spammy follower count. It’s like in the blogging days of yore, when someone pronounced to be, or alluded affinity with, the A-listers, I lost interest in them.

If you say you’re cool you not. Sort of thing.

My thoughts keep returning to a quote I heard via Brian Morrisey: “You get the network you deserve.”

For more coherence on this subject, check out this collection of thoughts and links on networks and influence at Data Mining.