Depending on whom you ask, the search industry is either reaching a tipping point, or it has already passed it. Online search is an unstoppable force, and there is no doubt that the platform for delivering results has changed and will continue to evolve as local search improves.
The author who helped make the phrase “tipping point” a common catchphrase, New York Times best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell, will speak at next month’s Yellow Pages Association Conference, and I’ve spent time lately brushing up on his books.
His unique insights on social sciences can be applied to any number of areas, but I obviously think about them in terms of their application to the local search industry. Each of Gladwell’s three books has a takeaway lesson for those of us in search.
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
Gladwell’s first book looks at understanding trends and how they can grow into social epidemics. Every influential trend has three keys: the Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor, and the Power of Context. The Law of the Few states that a few key players in unique positions must champion the trend. Stickiness is what leads people to pay attention to something and remember it, and context is the environment in which the idea is launched and spread.
Certainly, his thoughts on this point can help us better understand the hows and whys behind the explosion of social media sites and tools such as Facebook and Twitter. It also can provide a means to measure future innovations and their potential to become widely used game-changers in our industry. For example, look at the multitude of mobile search services seeking to position themselves as the go-to source for on-the-go answers. Will any have that sticky factor to help it break away from the pack?
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
This book analyzes how people make everyday, split-second decisions. In an age when it’s easy to suffer from paralysis by analysis or information overload, Gladwell argues that it’s important to focus on the most significant information to help make what are often unconscious or intuitive choices. The key to making these snap judgments—blinking—is the ability to “thin-slice,” taking limited information and using that to reach a conclusion.
In many ways, “thin-slicing” occurs every time users receive their initial search results. What leads them to pick one option over another? As local search experts, we know the key is for advertisers to make their content relevant to the potential customer.
Outliers: The Story of Success
Gladwell’s latest book looks at highly successful people and the factors that breed their extraordinary success. In the nature vs. nurture debate, hel clearly comes down on the nurture side, arguing that outside factors tend to trump innate ability. One thing Gladwell emphasized is the 10,000-hour rule—that the key to success in nearly anything is practicing that task for 10,000 hours, the equivalent of 20 hours a week for a period of 10 years.
A few words pop to mind to describe those who meet that rule: dedication, hard work, tenacity. Who is positioned to be the next search industry success story? I’m sure Gladwell would argue it could be anyone, as long as that person or group of people has put in the time. Given the Yellow Pages’ 130-year history in search and two decades in online search, I like our chances to remain among the leaders.
Gladwell will speak at the 2009 Yellow Pages Association Conference and Exhibition, which will be held April 26-28 at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.