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Three Degrees Of Separation?

Three Degrees Of Separation?
February 5, 2009 10:53 PM

Posted by Mitch Joel

How does influence really work? According to a recent study at Harvard University: "although a person may be connected to other people by six degrees of separation, he or she is influenced only by those up to three degrees away."
That's the story from the Harvard Business Review in the news item, The Dynamics of Personal Influence.

"… a person’s influence progressively diminishes as the degrees of separation increase. For example, the risk for smoking in a person connected to a smoker (that is, at one degree of separation) is 61% higher, on average, than would be expected as a result of chance. It is 29% higher if the friends of that person’s friends smoke, and 11% higher if the friends of the person’s friends’ friends smoke. By the fourth degree of separation there is no longer an increase in risk."

What does that mean in terms of business and Marketing?

"Efforts to foster creativity or innovation might depend on the degree of separation of the relevant parties. And groups of customers – including customers who have online connections – might be strategically targeted so as to take advantage of their influence on one another."

Are there any surprises here? The closer an individual is to another individual, the more influence they have on one another – particularly when it comes to purchasing decisions. These digital channels are beginning to enable companies (or the people who work for companies) to foster real interactions and even friendships with consumers. Brands that embrace the digital channel – and do so in the spirit of conversation, providing real value and not acting like pushy salespeople – are going to be the ones who will be most referable and have the most loyal customers.

How human is your Marketing? How great are you (and your people) at fostering real relationships with your consumers? How many degrees away are you? How many pixels of separation?