B.J. Fogg on Mass Interpersonal Persuasion and the end of marketing

Those of you who have attented my p2p lectures, will have heard one of my key arguments about the political/social importance of the internet as an enabling technology, which allows the global scaling of small group dynamics. This notion is akin to the concept used by Stanford professor BJ Fogg, recently featured in Fast Company, where he argues that Facebook is worldchanging because it enables this dynamic to develop in the most powerful way. Perhaps, though I do not believe this enabling is limited to Facebook, which is just a particular instance of it, and as a relative walled garden (so far), has built-in limitations.

Here is what he says:

Facebook is the precursor of something I’m calling mass interpersonal persuasion. That is a new phenomenon and the most important thing to happen in the world of persuasion since the advent of the radio over 100 years ago. Radio changed the game for persuasion because it allowed a message to be broadcast to thousands and millions of people, which was previously not possible. TV was an extension of that, but I don’t think it was the big leap that radio was.

Facebook takes very strong interpersonal influence dynamics — the way people persuade each other face-to-face in small groups with peer pressure, reciprocity, flattery — and allows those to be used on a mass scale because your social networks are built in. Friends influence friends, who influence friends, and that keeps rippling out. They can reach people very quickly for very little cost and ordinary people can set these in motion. It doesn’t require a big broadcasting company or a big PR campaign. If you get the right message in the right way, you’ll effect millions of people. Facebook has been the best platform for that, but I think in the future it will be commonplace.”

This will have not only huge political consequences, but also change the logics of business and marketing.

BJ Fogg on user-driven marketing:

As a brand, you can worry about all these micro niches and micro markets and the long tail, but I think at the end of the day you’re not going to have enough resources to do that. You have to focus on creating a spectacular product or service, and your market will find you. The people it resonates with will share it with others, and it will be distributed. It’s a big leap of faith for marketers to think they’re not going to have an active role in marketing. Once you figure out where it’s going, then you can start putting resources into continuing to go into that market or expanding into others.”

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