November 17, 2007

Are You An ACTIVE Hub?

With about 14 hours of airplane time over the last week, I had plenty of opportunity to catch up on books I've been neglecting. One of those I took in was Emanuel Rosen's "The Anatomy of Buzz", which aimed to capture the concept of word-of-mouth marketing, analyzing how some products take off (see: the iPhone and Nintendo Wii), while others stagnate despite tremendous advertising (see: Microsoft Vista).

One of the most important elements of getting a product launch or news popularized, according to Rosen, is to influence "hubs", defined as people who act as references to friends and others, and who, if influenced, can help to spread the word to many people, helping your cause.

Rosen defines these people with the acronym of being "ACTIVE", namely:

* Ahead in Adoption
* Connected
* Travelers
* Information-hungry
* Vocal
* Exposed to Media

This, to me, defines a great number in the tech blogosphere, who are obviously unafraid to share their opinions, reach many people, and suck down as much information as they can, whether from the mainstream media, or hundreds of RSS feeds from fellow bloggers. There's also no question these ACTIVE folks are connected to others and ahead in adoption. It's the tech bloggers who first adopt (and later dismiss) new Web 2.0 technologies, who are the first to download (and later uninstall) beta products, and they are all too eager to announce having gotten their hands on something new.

While this is true, The Anatomy of Buzz amazingly already seems seriously outdated since its writing in 2000. The book tries to talk about how the Internet impacts buzz by mentioning newsgroups, shared opinions sites like and comments on (including his book), but has zero discussion of those hubs that influence buying decisions now - blogs and social networks being the obvious omissions. It's also amusing to see the word Google is nowhere in the book. As a result, I found myself a little less than impressed with some portions of the book, which as a whole does a good job explaining how the Palm Pilot took off, how Nintendo drummed up excitement around the launch of Super Mario Brothers 3, and how Cold Mountain became a best-seller.

Part of being a blogger is knowing that by being ahead in adoption, information hungry and vocal, that through your connections, you can act as an ACTIVE hub. Though authored in 2000, Rosen describes this phenomenon in an offline way but rings true in today's even more fully connected world. If you don't mind the occasional rolling of the eyes over Web 1.0, it's definitely worth a reminder that it often doesn't matter just how many advertising dollars you throw at a product if the end users don't extend your message to their friends and others.