The 6 Degrees of Online Influence

Diagram showing the 6 degrees of influence described in this article.

There are so many articles about how to influence your audience. This article will talk about six degrees of how you may be influenced by consuming online content.

Let us look at each one of them below.

  1. Ignorant: This is when you lack awareness of the topic of the article. As Jeffrey Pfeffer (Stanford University, author of “Knowing Doing Gap”) put it nicely – “You need to be reasonably competent to know your level of incompetence on a topic.” If you are unaware of what’s happening on the topic or related areas, the article may not make much sense. The effectiveness here is negative as you invested time and energy to read the article creating an opportunity cost.
  2. Informed Bystander: You are a news junkie and a curious cat. You love to devour content related to your space but have no plans of using it anywhere. You wait for the right moment to put this into practice or wait to get “all the details” so that you can take the “right” action. The effectiveness is zero as “knowledge without application” is not worth much.
  3. Interpreted Right: You are not only informed but you know exactly how this applies to your situation – be it in your personal life or your professional life. You understand the relevance and apply it every now and then. Most often, this learning won’t go to your background – meaning you will apply this learning when it’s fresh in your mind.
    A good example is to watch people who attend motivational seminars. In the first two weeks, they will do a LOT of new things from the “hangover” of the motivational seminar and after those two weeks, they won’t even remember what they learned.
  4. Influenced Actor: You take the learning to the next level and make the most of the learning. You are clearly influenced by what you learn and you probably are considered a “sneezer” ( refer: The Idea Virus by Seth Godin for more on sneezers) and voluntarily spread the lessons and the learning.
  5. Inspired Actor: You are inspired by the learning that you take on yourself to go and look for more learning on the same topic. You also apply what you learn so well that you are an example of what someone “could become” when they learn and apply. This is probably where you get the maximum effectiveness from your learning.
  6. Insanely Obsessed: This is where you go nuts with what you are learning and rather than using what you have already learned, you start focusing on learning and getting others to learn. You are fascinated by the topic, you talk about it and enroll others to get excited but don’t do anything to apply it. You are, basically insanely obsessed with either what you learned or from whom you learned and sort of “lost in learning.”

There are so many good lessons out there in the world. I hope you take your learning seriously and become “inspired actors” to take your game to the next level.

About the Author: Rajesh Setty is an entrepreneur, author and speaker based in Silicon Valley. Rajesh maintains a blog at Life Beyond Code. You can also find him on Twitter at @UpbeatNow.

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Responses to this Post


  1. Very interesting! I would love to see a post on what each degree could do to use the information they have consumed more effectively…
    I do see some of myself in each of the degrees, but mostly I identify with 5 & 6. Sometimes I think the line between the two is blurred. I tend to get wrapped up in certain subjects and get stuck when I need to apply the information. Other subjects I am good at applying to my life and helping others to do the same.. My friends have labeled me an “information broker.” I am passionate about helping people understand things so that they can in turn apply them to their lives.
    I don’t think that “inspired actor” is necessarily always better than the “insanely obsessed” or the other degrees. It all depends on what you are trying to achieve.

  2. Stacy,

    Thank your for your comments. Yes, the line between 5 and 6 can be blurred. What I have seen is that many people are in 6 (Insanely Obsessed) but are thinking that they are in 5 (Inspired Actors.) They don’t discover (until very late) that they have all this expertise that they have accumulated but have not applied it to use.

    This article was mainly to remind people that the marketplace does not give a huge premium to “knowing” alone. They have to “do.”

    Have a great week ahead.


  3. Jagan Nemani says:

    Very interesting post.

    While studying the communities and their interaction, I had read similar notions of the people involved in the community. But there definitions were a little different i.e. observers, commentors, and creators. Based on my interviews with leading community creators, I added a category to this definition called “Visionaries”.

    Visionaries are equivalent to your category of “Insanely Obsessed”; and rightly so as they have seen the power of the communities and the content and they have taken the task of preaching what they have learned.

    Effectiveness of the Visionaries (as measured by metrics set within the communities) drops as they no longer contribute to the day-to-day activities. But they play a very important role that is essential for longer term viability of the community, i.e. expanding the community and opening newer horizons for the community. And overall impact of the visionary on the community can be huge, though it is impossible to measure. But good visionaries do not stay in this place for long, as they find the next new direction and take up the role of Creators for that new direction.

    So getting back to your framework, maybe there is a loop path for some “Insanely obsessed” people to go back to “Influenced Actor” with new direction.


  4. I was also wondering why the Insanely obsessed are less effective than the ignorant. I second Jagan’s thoughts about the degree 6 people.These people are like catalysts that accelerate the dissemination of the knowledge earned and this is particularly seen as very effective from a social point of view. But personally they need to put the earned knowledge into practice.

    May be you should add a cavaet that this framework is applicable at the personal level and come out with another version which applies to a more social level.

  5. Jagan, Vinoth:

    Thank you for your comments.

    Just to clarify – “Insanely Obsessed” are not the same as Visionaries. I have not talked about Visionaries in my post. Insanely obsessed are those people that sometimes confuse the “means” and “ends.”

    You learn something as a “means” to make something happen but sometimes you are so fascinated by the learning that – that learning will become the “end” and you forget to apply what you are learning.

    There are many other ways to look at this graph as Jagan pointed out but I don’t want to confuse the two or map different models into one – which will further confuse everyone 🙂


  6. Jagan Nemani says:

    Thank you for clarifying the difference. So the Effectiveness axis is about effectiveness in applying the knowledge.


  7. Hi Jagan,

    Yes almost. What I was meaning was “effectiveness” because of applying the knowledge.

    Talk to you soon.


  8. This clarification increases my understanding. You are such a reservior of knowledge.

  9. Rakesh Gudur says:

    Hi Rajesh,

    This is an old article. But would like to comment on it as it is still relevant.

    The factors you noted are interesting. Another important one, in my opinion, for online (and offline too) is “attention retention”. I learnt about this very recently. No matter how a person is informed, unless his or her attention is retained through out the process, the message will not be effective.


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