How does influence spread?
Vaseline's new Clinical Therapy product launch purposely tracked how people share or recommend a produce. In Kodiak, Alaska they gave out a few bottles and asked new customers who had recommended it. The epicenter of the recommendations, Petal Ruch, was then featured in a commercial. (Source: International Herald Tribune via colleague Andrew Re.)
The commercial ends with what is in essence a Conversation Network Map of how the product spread via social networks. These maps document what resources people use in making a decision and work in two directions; who do you trust recommendations from? and who do you think would benefit from the product? Thus, each decision creates a unique network or social graph. While Ms. Ruch is the influencer for lotion, it is unlikely she would be just as influential for a wide range of different products. Since men were found to be less accepting of a lotion then women it didn't spread nearly as well among that segment. This fact led to an improved creative brief and positioning as a performance enhancer.
Understanding how influence works, above the Petal connection, should remain a goal for marketing as it works to align the solutions it provides to the needs of its audience it serves.