From the archives: Word of mouth from strangers can be more influential than opinions from close friends

Recommendations from people we barely know can be more influential than opinions from our close friends, according to a study by Jacob Goldenberg (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Barak Libai (Technion-Israel Institute of Technology), and Eitan Muller (Tel Aviv University).

The study focused on comparing the personal communication between closer and stronger communications that are within an individual’s own personal group (strong ties) and weaker and less personal communications that an individual makes with a wide set of their acquaintances and colleagues (weak ties).

Among the findings, the study showed:

  • The influence of weak ties is at least as strong as the influence of strong ties. Despite the relative inferiority of the weak tie parameter in the model’s assumptions, their effect approximates or exceeds that of strong ties, in all stages of the product life cycle. In other words, we trust strangers quite a bit.
  • Information dissemination is dominated by both weak and strong word of mouth, rather than advertising.
  • The smaller the network, the more influential recommendations from weak-tie sources become.

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Comments

  1. CoCreatr

    Thank you for sharing this useful piece of research. One explanation I did not see in the paper could be: With close associates and strong ties may come shared history and personal agenda, even conflict of interest, whereas weak ties are easier to see as neutral on the matter at hand.

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