Monday, October 29, 2007

Marketing to the Weak Ties

I'm interested in the practical value of the ideas in Granovetter's "The Strength of Weak Ties." The types of networks he describes (i.e., wide ranging and characterized by very few clusters of strong ties) must obviously evolve organically. However, they could be put to use very effectively by certain forms of viral marketing or anti-capitalist propaganda. His examples all involve spreading messages that result from and strengthen mutually beneficial relationships between the nodes of the network. But how could we use the characteristics of such a network against it from the outside? What are some concrete methods by which we could spread information?

One example I've been toying with using the imagined (or individualized) network of chain-smokers: In the smoking network, relationships are characterized almost entirely by weak ties. Nicotine crises, for example are on of the few scenarios in which it is deemed socially acceptable to ask a stranger on the street for a certain product, and expect it to be offered with some certainty. This certainly sounds like a weak tie: "Got a light?" or, better yet, "Can I bum a smoke?" This seems like a good opportunity for viral meme warfare along the pathways of these weak ties. Perhaps by embedding the message along the tube of the cigarette itself? Or perhaps by taping a recorded message to be played every time a lighter is flicked on? Of course, this network also has some strong ties: smokers who happen to be close friends, who might borrow a lighter for a day or split packs. This, too, is an opportunity for saturating a certain cluster of networked nodes with a given message, assuming that these nodes are also connected to the outside via the same type of weak ties characterized above.

1 comment:

Lena said...

That's really interesting that you bring up the topic of viral message-dissemination using cigarettes and lighters: a few of my friends have been undertaking just this project, and have had some interesting results. Their tack is lighters, and they have been taping images and phrases onto cheap Bic lighters and handing them out whenever someone asks for "a light." Mostly they are irreverent, but a few display political jabs at Bush or Dennis Kucinich. They've had at least a few of the lighters handed back to them by people they didn't know when they asked for "a light," shocking and amazing them that their little lights had reached so far.