Tips on Tipping

While languishing in bed for two days last week, I managed to pick up the book "The Tipping Point" and finished reading it all in one go (almost). Malcolm Gladwell's thought provoking tome isn't exactly the newest trick of the trade, but some of its principles are useful to share.

In essence, it postulates that hits do not just happen by accident. There are various factors which lead to these "social epidemics" occurring, and they cause the phenomenon known as the tipping point, leading to quick and massive "infection" in the population. This idea has been much in favour recently, with many new media theoreticists claiming that web 2.0 and its inherent qualities make tipping much easier.

Before a virus, idea, shoe, movie, even disease and suicide rate "tip", however, there are three pre-conditions and three sets of people needed to catalyse the process. Gladwell's three rules for tipping are:

The Law of the Few

It is not just any Tom, Dick and Harry who can make things tips. You need the "super-infectors". Who are they?

Mavens These are the know-all types who are deep into the subject matter at hand. They can be the latest fashionistas, a university professor, a leading football coach or anybody who is respected and knowledgeable. These folks usually have influence by way of their guru-like cult status.

Connectors These are the people with the rolodexes, who have a wide variety of contacts in different worlds. Usually, they flit easily between different social circles, and may have very diverse career or social experiences during their lifetimes. They are able to jump across parallel universes and terrains.

Salesmen These are the charismatic charmers, with the sheer personality and animal magnetism needed to sell ice to eskimos. Their abilities to negotiate, wheel and deal, make them ideal candidates to share and disseminate ideas, thoughts, fads and even diseases.

Of course, those who possess all three qualities will be your ultimate tipping agent.

The Stickiness Factor

The main idea is that the message is just as important as the messager. What sticks and what doesn't varies depending on who your target audiences are. A group of pre-schoolers are unlikely to be attracted to say "News on 5" compared to "Barney goes to the Beach". Understanding what sort of message stick to your recipients is key in any successful transmission.

The Power of Context

The final condition is the prevailing environmental and other contextual factors happening during that time. What are the social, economic, political, and technological landscapes like? Is there a recent phenomenon - a tsunami disaster, political upheaval, new government legislation - that will affect how your product or service will be viewed? Even the size of groups makes a difference - too big and it is unlikely that you will command enough attention and influence to win them over.

Some of the examples that Gladwell gave were interesting. They include how the New York Police Department managed to turn around the rising tide of serious crime by fixing seemingly inconsequential petty offences like fare jumping and graffiti. Sesame Street was another interesting case, where the tweaking of multiple factors and incorporation of humans with muppets made all the difference between success and failure.

If you haven't already read this book, go buy or borrow a copy today!