Home > Uncategorized > The Three Types of People Important in a Word of Mouth Epidemic

The Three Types of People Important in a Word of Mouth Epidemic

I’ve been reading The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell and it’s been really eye opening reading about the three types of people that spread word of mouth epidemics. If you are able to successfully get the attention of these types of people it is conceivable to produce a guerilla(cheap) marketing campaign that has great chances for success.  Gladwell argues that it comes down to three integral types of people to launch epidemics that permeate the general population.  Gladwell refers to these groups as connectors, mavens, and salesmen. I am going to share a little bit about these groups and their roles.


Connectors are the kinds of people that have relationships with hundreds if not thousands of other people. They have mainly superficial interactions with most of the people in their lives, but the key is they stay connected even if the interactions they have had with a person was brief. If they learn of a new restaurant for example, they might tell 20 people about it. In a word of mouth epidemic they are the amplifiers, they reach a large target audience. When a connector becomes a fan of your product or service it’s message is sure to be spread throughout a large number of people.

Almost everyone knows this kind of person. They are the one that has 1,000 friends on Facebook. The one that even in a different city will randomly meet someone they know on the street. Connectors are the early adopters that you need to get on your side to make sure your message reaches its target audience. In many ways the connectors are “the cool kids.”


Mavens are the type of people that will be your biggest fans. Mavens are on top of all the industry research; they are the type of people that read consumer reports publications. They have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the topic they are interested in. They are the well-respected experts in their field.

When a maven finds a product or service that appeals to them, they will tell people all the benefits. They will have such conviction in the tone they use they will easily persuade those around them, even though that is not their end goal. A maven is simply trying to educate the people that they communicate with. The difference between a maven and a connector is that mavens do not spread their message as far. But when a maven speaks, people listen. A connector may broadcast a message about a product to 25 people and 8 people end up purchasing it. In contrast a maven may only tell 8 people about the same product or service but they all end up purchasing it. The same result is achieved only in a different fashion.

In the online world well respected bloggers and authors that curate email lists are good examples of maven’s. Some of these people may not have huge followings so the amplification factor may be as big but they will have a core group of fans that truly listen and trust the source they are receiving information from.


Salesmen are the great persuaders in an epidemic, unlike a maven who is trying to inform and educate. Salesmen will persuade people that are skeptical and they are as critical to creating word of mouth epidemics as the other two groups. What separates a great salesman from an average one is the number of quality answers they can provide to the objections of potential customers. If a potential customer is met with very solid answers to his or her objections they will be much more likely to buy something.

Salesmen also possess a level of energy and enthusiasm that is not often seen in the general population. The positivity that they exude makes it hard for people to disagree with them. Some of the powerful forces that aren’t so apparent are the types of movements and voice patterns a good salesman possesses.  This idea is called synchronicity, which means that the salesman and the person they are talking to fall into a harmony of sorts in their words and body movements. This is the indescribable charisma someone possesses that can almost take control of a room. Bill Clinton is a great example. A natural salesman masters these traits as a sort of super reflex that they produce unknowingly.

Overall your best shot of reaching out to people starts with the mavens. These people are some of the most easily identifiable because they are usually industry leaders. Mavens also have a good chance of being a connector as well. Reaching out to this group and getting their support is what is going to win you your first 1,000 fans. And without them, your movement will be destined to fizzle out.

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