A customer is a customer right? Their money is all green and every one is equally valuable. Not so fast! It turns out that there are some customers who can not only buy your product but help evangelize it as well. Because these customers are better connected and more influential, their ability to attract other customers is disproportionate to their share of your business.
A quick example to demonstrate the point. MySpace.com is the social networking site that has grown like crazy to 60 million users per month.Early on, they decided that not all single people were equal and made a special effort to get models, actors, and actresses onto the service. It was like pouring jet fuel on the fire. My Space became “the” site to be on because ordinary folks wanted to be part of a community with the beautiful people.
There is a fascinating book the shows that this same principle not only can, but does apply, to every business and many other things in life. The book is titled ” Linked: How Everything is Connected To Everything Else and What It Means”. It’s written by Dr. Albert-Lazlo Barabasi on Notre Dame and Harvard.
Here’s an excerpt from Publishers Weekly (copyright Cahners 2002): Information, disease, knowledge and just about everything else is disseminated through a complex series of networks made up of interconnected hubs, argues University of Notre Dame physics professor Barabasi. These networks are replicated in every facet of human life: “There is a path between any two neurons in our brain, between any two companies in the world, between any two chemicals in our body. Nothing is excluded from this highly interconnected web of life.” In accessible prose, Barabasi guides readers through the mathematical foundation of these networks. He shows how they operate on the Power Law, the notion that “a few large events carry most of the action.” The Web, for example, is “dominated by a few very highly connected nodes, or hubs… such as Yahoo! or Amazon.com.” Barabasi notes that “the fittest node will inevitably grow to become the biggest hub.” The elegance and efficiency of these structures also makes them easy to infiltrate and sabotage; Barabasi looks at modern society’s vulnerability to terrorism, and at the networks formed by terrorist groups themselves. The book also gives readers a historical overview on the study of networks, which goes back to 18th-century Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler and includes the well-known “six degrees phenomenon” developed in 1967 by sociology professor Stanley Milgram. The book may remind readers of Steven Johnson’s Emergence and with its emphasis on the mathematical underpinnings of social behavior Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point (which Barabasi discusses); those who haven’t yet had their fill of this new subgenre should be interested in Barabasi’s lively and ambitious account.
I heard Dr. Barabasi speak at a conference a couple of months ago and now have pretty much finished his book. He’s a great an entertaining speaker and an equally good writer. He takes a complex and arcane subject and makes it clear and enjoyable. Just as importantly, I got some interesting ideas about how my own small busines, an internet website, is part of the larger network of the worldwide web.