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The Power of Social Influence

An article in the current issue of The Harvard Business Review validates a nasty little secret: the best products aren’t necessarily the most successful. The piece, which discusses a Columbia University study, concludes that a product’s success is determined more by social influence than its inherent qualities. Simply put, the more people who are enthusiastic about a product, the more others will want it, even if there may be other equally good products.

An article in the current issue of The Harvard Business Review validates a nasty little secret: the best products aren’t necessarily the most successful. The piece, which discusses a Columbia University study, concludes that a product’s success is determined more by social influence than its inherent qualities. Simply put, the more people who are enthusiastic about a product, the more others will want it, even if there may be other equally good products. Of course, we didn’t need a Columbia University study to tell us what any group of teenagers knows intrinsically: certain products are cool (‘cause everyone wants one) and others don’t deserve a glance.

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As someone who helps entrepreneurs and companies increase their visibility in the marketplace, I’ve often believed that nothing helps grow one’s reputation as much as testimonials. What can be better than satisfied customers saying how terrific you are. Endorsements let you toot your own horn through the more credible voice of others. Yet, it never fails to surprise me how many websites, particularly of small businesses, neglect to include testimonials or case studies validating their success.

If you don’t own your own business, that’s all the more reason to work at creating your own “walking testimonials.” These are people within your organization (superior, peers and subordinates) who will talk up your accomplishments and let others know that you’re a valuable member of the team.

Without endorsements, all the hard work you’re doing is not going to put you on the fast track. The most successful people typically have a fan club of people creating positive “buzz” about them. Yes, it means being political and self-promotional. But show me a successful person who doesn’t do that, and I’ll bet you’ll come up nearly empty-handed.

At the end of the day, who is going to get ahead? The person quietly doing his job or the person whose job performance is no better but is excelling at getting others to talk him or her up? I think you know the answer. And, you probably didn’t need a Columbia University study to tell you that.

Wendy Marx • Public Relations/Marketing Communications • President, Marx Communications, Inc. wendy@marxcommunications.com • www. marxcommunications.com

About the author

Wendy Marx is President of Marx Communications, an award-winning boutique B2B Public Relations agency known for turning companies and executives, including start-ups, into thought leaders. Follow her on Twitter @wendymarx and on Google+ @ plus.google.com/+wendymarx.

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