A new study finds that influencers on social media are actually unlikely to change a person’s behavior by example, and might actually be detrimental to the cause.
University of Pennsylvania researcher and senior study author Damon Centola explains it’s because when an influencer presents an idea that their followers don’t agree with “they can unintentionally antagonize the people they are seeking to persuade because people typically only follow influencers whose ideas confirm their beliefs about the world.” Basically, if you want to spread gossip, go ahead and get help from an influencer, but if you want to transmit new ways of thinking that challenge an existing set of beliefs, you should be “targeting people in the outer edge or fringe of a network.”
Centola adds that the findings “turn our notions about social influence for marketing, sales, and social movements upside down. Not everything spreads through a network in the same way, and we can use this knowledge to pinpoint hotspots in the social graph. This can allow us to accurately tailor our network strategies for effecting positive social change.”