Diesel isn't afraid to let its fans do the talking, and the influencing, with its Be Stupid campaign.

The t’interweb has changed the way we engage with brands and the things we buy by integrating our friends and networks into the decision process. I realise this isn’t anything new, heck I’ve even written about it before.

But it’s worth a revisit this week. The reason being that Gartner have released a report to quantify exactly how they think this process is taking place.

Drawing parallels with Edelman’s own thinking on the topology of influence, the report explains that 74% of people can be categorised as connectors, mavens or salesmen when it comes to recommending things to friends.

Whatever lexis we use to group people, the fact remains that now, more than ever, our group of friends are the advocates we listen to and trust to the highest level. This is obviously facilitated perfectly by the online world – explained here very well by Paul Adams of Google – leading Gartner to quite rightly/obviously claim that companies need to engage with people on social networks. I’d hope to be preaching to the converted in flagging that fact, but Gartner believe this is ‘a critical but underutilised aspect of the marketing process’.

Critical it definitely is, earlier in the year, we here at Edelman conducted a study which looked at social entertainment (the annual Edelman Trust in Entertainment survey). The research from across the UK and US showed how for the first time social networks have emerged as a source of entertainment in their own right. With more than 70% of 18-34 year olds putting social networks alongside the likes of TV and film as a tool to keep them entertained, the window of opportunity for purchase recommendations is greater than ever.

However, anyone who has the keys to a marketing budget will quite rightly want this ‘influence’ converted into some kind of ROI which makes the following stat from the research pretty interesting – 37% of those who view social networks as an entertainment source, spent more on entertainment this year than last year.

If any brands need further convincing of the importance of influence and engagement over reach, they should take a look at these results from the World Cup which sort of say it all.

Click here for more information on Edelman’s annual ‘Trust in Entertainment’ survey.

@AJGriffiths