Mario Sundar

LinkedIn's 2nd PR hire. These are my thoughts on products, public relations, and startups.

“Mavens” hold the key to Social Networking’s Future

Yes, I’m talking about “Mavens” as defined by Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point“. I think we can safely draw a comparison between those three groups (see below image) and the concept of “content creators” within the social networking ecosystem, one that’s been much discussed recently (via posts from Fred Wilson and Don Dodge – more after the jump).


(Source: David Armano)

Two Schools of Social Networking thought:

1. 1% creators –

Generally in a group of 100 people online, one will create content, 10 will “interact” with it (commenting or adding to it) and the other 89 will just view it. But, everyone benefits from the activities of the whole group. (Source: Don Dodge via Bradley Horowitz)

2. 100% creators –

Honestly I am not envisioning anything other than this; every single human being posting their thoughts and experiences in any number of ways to the Internet. (Source: Fred Wilson)

So, if you extrapolate Fred’s prediction to Don’s model in the earlier example, the understanding is that in the future, 100% of everyone online will be a “content creator”. Let me ask you – how many of you have ever created content on a social network? (e.g. posting an item on Facebook or submitting an article on LinkedIn News). Leave a comment.

The Future:

The truth as they say has gotta lie somewhere in between. And, if you’re still scratching your head wondering who is a “content creator”, here’s a Gladwell’s definition on the three “agents of change” for a social epidemic.

They are: “connectors”, “mavens”, and “salesmen” and a superficial reading shows us that the content creators we’re talking here are the “mavens”:

“people we rely upon to connect us with new information.”[6] They accumulate knowledge, especially about the marketplace, and know how to share it with others.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Now whichever school of thought you fall under (1% or 100%) the one undeniable conclusion from the above blog posts, is that the future of social networking lies with these “mavens”. While Don and Bradley say they constitute 1% of the network, Fred says every one on the web will become an “information specialist”. My good friend Jeremiah, says as of today the numbers lie somewhere in between the above theories (Source: Forrester).

Where do you think the future of social networking lies? How much do you contribute?

(Disclosure: I work at LinkedIn, a professional networking site, and these are my personal opinions as are all other posts on this blog. Thanks for reading. Care to Subscribe?)

Filed under: Miscellaneous

9 Responses

  1. Interesting subject

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  2. Nice, Sundar! I believe this is the central idea of marketing. The fact, ironically, is that most marketers are unaware of how information travels!

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  3. Rob Frappier says:

    Interesting post Sundar.

    I wrote recently on my blog (http://marketingblog.experience.com/) about the need for companies to have a complete and thoughtful strategy before diving into social networking. It was a response to an article I had read at AdAge (http://adage.com/cmostrategy/article?article_id=127430).

    So here’s my question. Given the “maven” theory, do you think it’s better for a company to try and be the maven themselves, or enlist the aid of current mavens in the community?

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  4. tomob says:

    Hi Mario:

    WE have done a lot of work on this issue – and one really important point that is often ignored (see social technographics) is that the role a person plays (maven or not) is very much situation dependent. I am a maven in my rec.windsurfing newsgroup, but an information seeker in my digital photography newsgroup.

    And I don’t thing there are magical things brand marketers can to do connect with the mavens – is is about product and the entire brand experience.

    So, marketing SHOULD NOT be focused on mavens. It should be focused on product, people and relationships.

    TO’B

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  5. Hi tomob,

    “So, marketing SHOULD NOT be focused on mavens. It should be focused on product, people and relationships.”

    As someone that has read both of Gladwell’s books, I do have to agree with you. There’s a lot of socio-economic factors not taken into play in his books, even though I enjoyed them a great deal, and a number of recent studies have shown that these folks *may not* be as important as books like “The Tipping Point” have suggested.

    I think that the book undervalues the simple fact that your average person, not a maven, is just as likely to engage in WOM practices if they find value in the product.

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  6. Mario Sundar says:

    @Rob,

    Mavens will be mavens. But it’s always good to have your employees be mavens as well.

    @Tom, @Damon,

    I’d still vote for Malcolm’s idea of mavens. What’s interesting is that social networking effects will make it easier for mavens to flourish these days as opposed to the old-model. But that’s just my $0.02.

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  7. Jay Cousins says:

    The notion of mavens is an interesting one, however it is more a form of behavior, some people may be more of one thing than another, however in the age that we now live in we are all mavens, connectors and salesman.

    These are merely attributes to our online behavior whether conscious or unconscious. Ultimately we listen to our friends, our peers, and people we trust, if we trust a “maven” it’s either because they have demonstrated knowledge of the topic, or because we know and respect them.

    For more on the future of the web, check my latest posting http://jaycousins.wordpress.com/2008/07/17/key-factors-in-the-future-of-social-networking/

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  8. Mario Sundar says:

    Thanks for the comment, @Jay,

    Maybe a few of us could be all three of the above, but I don’t think most do. I still believe most people fall under one of the three categories.

    However, my current thought is evolving to believe that social networking is actually helping break the notion of the Tipping Point by providing technology that enables everyone (whether or not) it’s a natural trait of theirs to spread word-of-mouth without trying too hard.

    Thoughts?

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  9. Neil Dallas says:

    Oh, this is an older thread, but I have a simple question. How do we properly identify the mavens? For example, it is simple to say to a company – You need to focus on the mavens. But, in real life, how do we find them and send them the info in the first place?

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