Jim Novo wrote a Web Analytics Association Review on Firm Created Word Of Mouth.

I strongly recommend the read.

Although the paper was published in the most recent edition of Marketing Science, it was based on findings that span four decades.

The first finding reaffirms the ‘strength of weak links’ hypothesis. Let me explain:

Like people tend to clump, alike.

Among my friends, more than half own iPhones with occupations centering on technology and the Internet and most have roles that are heavily steeped in data. Three quarters would be classified by Forrester as being Tech Optimists and Creators. A majority live in the inner city.

Not everybody in my circle are uniformly this way: I used the word ‘more than half’ for a reason, but you get the picture: like people clump alike.

I’m linked to a number of other communities by way of acquaintances. Lots and lots of acquaintances! Everybody is.

Very few in my circle of friends would ask me if I would recommend Google Analytics over Omniture. They already know enough to have their own opinion.

However: an acquaintance who runs a company might ask me how they would know if their money is well spent – and my response: that recommendation – one that travels along a weak link, would carry more weight.

A weak link is one between acquaintances that span two heterogeneous communities. A strong link is one that spans between friends in a homogeneous community. A reccomendation made over a weak link is stronger than one carried over a strong link.

We use the words ‘forward to a friend’ all the time in social. In all reality, forward to a friend isn’t what you want to drive product adoption. To drive frequency of purchase – yes. But in most cases (there are exceptions!) not product adoption. The ‘forward to an acquaintance’ action is the one you really want to happen.

In spite of this, we as marketers continue to use the term ‘forward to a friend’ because that’s the base call to action. This entire weak ties is a footnote.

In all, Jim Novo’s review is a good read. It’s valuable.