Oprah mentioned a book on her show the other day, and subsequently it shot to #1 on the New York Times bestsellers list.
Adam Lambert, of American Idol fame, talks about his makeup, and the stores sell out.
The power of celebrity in selling ‘the goods’ is amplified by the many channels (and the immediacy of those channels) available today.
The influence of famous words isn’t limited to stay-at-home mums and teenage swooners, however. Geeks and The Street (which could be the name of a new game show) suffer a similar fate.
Let’s take the unlikely couple mentioned above.
Ben Bernanke is the Fed Chairman, a former all-state saxophone player and #4 on Newsweeks’ “Global Elite“. What he says about money moves minds. And when he says it, the markets react. Never have so few words inspired fear or joy in so many Brooks Bros.-clad Wall Street workers (even the Stan Getz accompanying, saxophone playing Alan Greenspan couldn’t inspire the same fear.)
When Bernanke said:
“The U.S. government is not going to print money and distribute it willy-nilly …although there are policies that approximate this behaviour.”
Grown men wept, markets dipped, and a small rift opened in The Force. Never have the words “willy-nilly” carried so much weight.
Matt Cutts is also an influencer of a different kind. More Rabbi and less rabid than the average politician, Matt Cutts doesn’t pontificate or waffle, Matt Cutts IS the mouth piece of almighty Google engineers, and is therefore held in much higher regard than most people since The Messiah*.
Where Bernanke influences markets, Cutts influences marketeers. SEO-types with aspirations of ranking #1 on Google search results pages (SERP) absorb his every word, and are often seen searching through Palo Alto Starbucks’ trash in hope of finding his coffee grinds.
To paraphase the great Winston Churchill with an exhorbitant amount of poetic licence:
“Never has so little, inspired so much, in so foolish”
When Matt Cutts noted at the SMX Advanced conference that:
1) “Your leftover PageRank will now evaporate”
SEO folks were seen with cold bottles of beer trying to capture the evaporated PageRank as it condensed.
As silly as this may sound, Matt Cutts does little to dispell the myth around the man. His speeches and interviews are often more obtuse than Nostradamus in predicting the likelihood of higher rankings from miniscule tweaks. (We do still like you Matt. Yes we do.)
Yet still the followers follow, interpreting nuances in phrases like “I plan to talk sometime soon about what I learned in the process of moving to a completely different domain for a month” as househunting advice.
It may be silly to you and I to expect the influenced to think before they react, or the influencers to think before they speak.
With technology amplifying the effect of influencing (and by extention peoples’ gullibility) in creating and supporting a vast watercooler of conversation, both influencers and the influenced need to be more aware of the power of words.
Homer Simpson, paraphrased it perfectly… “doh”
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* depending on your religion, this could be any number of people, including Elvis.
[note: This post is the brainchild of Alec Green who said “wouldn’t it be a great idea if…” and the rest is history. Thanks Alec!]