Today’s New York Times Magazine cover story, “The Hidden (in Plain Sight) Persuaders,” by Rob Walker is mostly about the Boston-based BzzAgent, a company that organizes the word-of-mouth marketing equal to astroturf. Although Everett Rogers’ diffusion of innovation is mentioned and described, this article and the company seem to owe more to Douglass Ruskoff’s “Media Virus: Hidden Agendas in Popular Culture” and the concept of meme than to Rogers. If nothing else, the success of BzzAgent, if this article is more than just bzz itself, is to show that early adaptors need not be ‘cool people’ or ‘trend setters’ or even successful models. They just need to get the bzz or, as Doug would say, meme out and get it out to a lot of people. This is more Mark Granovetter than Rogers, if you asked me (and since I’m writing this I asked myself).
Both Rushkoff’s media virus/meme and Granovetter’s strength of weak ties [Granovetter, M. (1973), "The Strength of Weak Ties," American Journal of Sociology, 78 (6): 1360-1380.] speak more directly to the way memes make their way through a culture or, dare I say it, a market.
I am also trying to see how the various parts of Ronald Burt’s work on Structural Holes and creativity and information dissimination fit in here. It looks like Burt’s new book [downloadable at least in part in pdf] “Brokerage and Closure: An Introduction of Social Capital” might contain the answer and/or his paper, “Bandwidth and Echo: Trust, Information, and Gossip in Social Networks [pdf],” [Pre-print of a chapter in Networks and Markets, edited by Alessandra Casella and James E. Rauch. Russell Sage Foundation, 2001].