Fast Company’s Influence Project and Reputation Racketeering

Fast Company wants to know who has the most online influence.  They’re trying to measure it using a big social media ponzi scheme where you get a unique link that you get others to click using all your various social profiles.  The more clicks you can garner, the more influence you have.  Therefore, the person who not only has the most time to waste and can also waste the most collective time of others gets to be featured in their magazine. 

If they really wanted the answer, it’s pretty easy.  The most influential person online is Tim O’Reilly—if influence is a function of reach, relevance, relationship with other main influencers, etc.  The guy owns the preeminent technology publishing and events company and coined the term “Web 2.0”.  Add in who he influences and it’s not even a contest. 

Instead, we’re probably going to wind up with Julia Roy, Richie “I bought Bebo” Hecker, or even worse, an iPad DJ.  Perhaps Soraya will seek to add another magazine cover to her mantle.  With nearly 500k followers, it wouldn’t be so hard for her if she wanted—but does that make her the most influential when it comes to changing minds, spreading ideas?  Or is it just about retweets and clicks?

Unfortunately, that leaves everyone who is actually influential to scramble—to either play this stupid game or risk getting mindshare taken away from them.  You see, when your job is to be out there, accessible, and on the hypothetical list of people to reach out to around innovative stuff, you miss out on an opportunity when you fail to get on these completely contrived lists.  So, while you may not actually care whether Fast Company thinks you’re innovative, influential, or whatever, if they’re going to produce a list or feature someone, you still find value in being on it.

It’s a step in the direction of racketeering in my mind.  You don’t want to pay the contest any attention, but they know where your followers live, and you might wake up being followed by @horseshead.  Get left off of every contrived list and eventually, you’re going to get left off of a list that counts—like, “List of investors that can help me increase market share.”  What choice do you have?  The worst part is, you need to rope other people into it.  The winner will cumulatively waste the most time of others in their social network.  Is that what the kids are calling influence these days?

I understand that Fast Company needs to generate some online traffic to stay alive, but how about doing it through actual journalism rather than just the business equivalent of those late 90’s “Type in the e-mail addresses of 5 people who might have a crush on you” apps. 

Or, if you’re dying to do something data-driven, how about actually measuring influence through a service like Klout, or running someone’s top 50 blog posts, tweets, etc., through some kind of algorithm?  Or, just simply rename your little context “The Person Who Spend the Most Time and Effort Trying to Win Our Online Context”.