Archive for July 8th, 2010

When influence is confused with popularity

I guess this is the week of Influence. Or is it popularity? It’s funny how trends, momentum and failures will shape and dictate what we talk about and write about from week to week isn’t it? Take the Fast Company Influence Project-talk about a sh@#! storm! Why? Well let’s look at what has been said about this “project” up to this point.

For the moment, brands like Fast Company need to think long and hard before redefining what influence means. Influence is based on trust and targeted connections, not ego and self-adulation. Just writing about Fast Company’s Influence Project will contribute to its going viral, but hopefully it will influence a few “social media gurus” from wasting the time of their friends and followers-Courtney Boyd Myers

The biggest problem here is that this is a Fast Company editorial project which provides no service or experience to a reader besides that of clicking on rather confusing links in order to be confronted with bullshit “influence” metrics, which inevitably leaves people feeling empty and used-SF Weekly

This isn’t influence. This is an ego trap and a popularity contest, pure and simple. There’s no goal other than click pandering. Already, Twitter is full of people shouting “click on my junk!” and flooding my stream and countless others with nothing more than clamoring for…well…validation.-Amber Naslund

Editorial integrity.

In my mind those two words are inextricably linked and have been since long before my days at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. So when I saw the first Tweets pass by about something called The Influence Project by Fast Company Magazine, I clicked immediately. The person from whom the Tweet came was someone I respected and of all the business rags I read, Fast Company has always held a top spot for great reporting/writing and rock solid editorial integrity. I was wrong.-Cathy Brooks

The Fast Company Influence Project gimmick is exactly that – a gimmick and a disappointing one. It seems to be a way to build a database of people and participate in link baiting more than a meaningful approach to identifying who’s influential online.-Shiv Singh

For anyone following this meme on Twitter, Fast Company recently launched a site called “Influence Project”, where they’re essentially pitting online “influencers” against one another to vote for their influencer ranking. The Project is being pushed left and right on Twitter and Facebook and I’m sure elsewhere, but at this point I’ve tuned out from it, not because I don’t want to vote for my friends but because it’s like watching cattle being lined up onto a conveyor belt only to be lead to slaughter.-David Binkowski

Fast Company started this campaign with a simple question – who are the most influential people online right now?  But, online influencers and interested bystanders alike are asking, who cares?  Would you tweet your followers, email your friends and update your facebook status in order to be considered an influencer?  What could Fast Company do to turn this into less of a gimmick and more about why influence matters? Does online influence really matter?-Social Citizens

So what is the takeaway from this? Well sadly, Fast Company probably got out of it, exactly what they wanted to get out of it. Traffic,  eyeballs and a database.  All at the expense of a bait and switch ruse initiated by Mekanism (FYI, their website might be one of the most annoying and narcissistic sites I’ve been on in awhile, but maybe that works?)

Lessons learned? Plenty, it reminds me of the Skittles web campaign about a year and a half ago. Lots was written about how short sighted it was, but me thinks Skittles got out of it, exactly what they wanted to get out of it. The only difference was that Fast Company used it’s most precious asset, it’s users/readers to carry it out. They violated a trust for something that really returned nothing on the back end for it’s users.

So could the value of influence be  equivalent to the price of social popularity? You betcha! If we continue to embrace and allow companies to endorse and roll out projects like this, then influence will continue to be watered down into a useless metric based on a hollow number…The irony of it all though is that 6,000 plus egos took the bait. Maybe we all are fueled by ego after all? Sad when you think about it.

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Marc Meyer is a Digital and Social Media Strategist at DRMG. This is my personal blog where I share observations, thoughts and opinions that are all my own.

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