What is often passed off as 'the new way' of building word-of-mouth or buzz, social computing or social marketing is mostly the old wine of a broadcasting model of communication being repackaged in the new bottles of social networks. The strategy remains the same, only the tactics differ. Now instead of crafting messages to be delivered through third-party, passive media pipelines, many marketers focus on crafting messages to be delivered through authentic, proactive ones (participants, users, consumers). I refer to this as 'the old world' way of continuing to view communication as a linear process of Source-Message-Channel-Receiver that still dominates most marketing communications in the 'new' social media world.
BrandWeek has an interview with sociologist Duncan Watts who challenges the precepts of connectors and mavens popularized by Gladwell in The Tipping Point as well as the notion that finding and priming influencers is the ticket to successful buzz making. In fact, the opposite may be true.
BW: How would you advise a marketer to act if they want to start a buzz?
DW: First, they should focus less on who people influence and more on how people are influenced. It sounds like just the other side of the same coin, but the difference is important—identifying easily influenced people, and how they are influenced raises different questions, and requires different research design than looking for influentials. Second, they should also think more about networks, and network structure, rather than treating everyone as behaving independently. And third, they should move away from the idea that buzz can be engineered to achieve some prespecified outcome, and get better at measuring and reacting to buzz that arises naturally.
It is a new world of thinking about how to do communications, not just changing [our] communication behaviors. Yet, as I like to point out in my presentation, it is not how communication works that has changed in the past few years, new media have just made it more obvious. The power is, and has always been, in the networks.