The one-sentence summary

Small groups of friends are the key to influence on the social web.


  • Small groups of friends are the key to influence on the social web.
  • The web has moved away from its structure of documents and pages linked together, and is now built around people.
  • Since we have always been social animals, the web (which is only 20 years old) is simply catching up with offline life. Human behaviour changes much more slowly than technology.
  • Businesses need to understand how people are connected, how the people closest to them influence them most, and that it’s better to concentrate on these small groups rather than look for overly influential individuals.
  • The main themes are:

1.     Social networks are not new, and the social web is here to stay.

2.    Sharing is a means to an end – it makes life easier.

3.    Our social networks are made up of small independent groups, connected through us.

4.    The people closest to us have disproportionate influence over us.

5.     When spreading ideas, the structure of the network is more important than the characteristics of the individuals.

6.    How we behave is learned from observing others.

7.     Many of our decisions are made by our nonconscious, emotional brain, which has 200,000 times the capacity of the conscious brain.

8.    We’re wired to avoid trying new things, especially when they don’t match our beliefs – it’s called habit bias.

9.    People will increasingly turn to their friends for information


  • We talk to survive, form social bonds, help others, and to manage how others perceive us – and who is listening to us changes what we talk about.
  • The Homophily Principle sets limits on who we are connected to, and usually follows a pattern of 5-15-50-150-500 people, from an inner circle of close friends, to a sympathy group, to people we loosely know.
  • So we have different types of relationships ranging from associates, to useful contacts, fun friends, favour friends, helpmates, comforters, confidants, soulmates, and so on.
  • People with many connections are not necessarily influential – this is ‘the myth of the influentials’.
  • In a study of 74 million tweets, only a couple reached 10,000 retweets – 98% of attempted cascades don’t spread at all.
  • People have high and low adoption thresholds, and low is better if you want to influence them.
  • Rebuilding a business around people is therefore not a choice but a necessity – a new knowledge set is required about social behaviour, networks and how people think.


  • The author works at Facebook, so you would expect him to have many of these views.