This piece on the Majority Illusion published earlier this summer is quite fascinating. I'd recommend taking a look and also reading the original research paper here.
In some ways it doesn't feel surprising that people with high numbers of connections (following) have influence. However, there is something potentially insidious in that a small number of voices can significantly skew the understanding of many. Don't forget that this is regardless of being "right" or "wrong".
The MIT Technology Review article ends looking in the context of marketing. I think that is clearly relevant but I'm far more interested in what this means for organisations and learning in social networks...
- How can we better understand what is actually happening across strata and in groups?
- How can we better filter & discern apparently valuable information?
- How do we avoid becoming the accidental cause or vehicle for majority illusions?
Big questions and big challenges for leadership I think. Perhaps the biggest challenge is building the awareness of these dynamics.
One of the curious things about social networks is the way that some messages, pictures, or ideas can spread like wildfire while others that seem just as catchy or interesting barely register at all. The content itself cannot be the source of this difference. Instead, there must be some property of the network that changes to allow some ideas to spread but not others.