Fast Company has done an interesting thing with the Influence Project. They’ve shown people (for a limited time, anyway) that even tiny actions can have a massive effect on how others perceive you. Your visible inclusion in public places, in any number of small ways, can add value to your visibility.
But does this visibility have any value?
Let’s use me as an example – I’m probably at the high end of average as far as savvy with online media goes. I’m not claiming to be special here, just making a statement; I’ve been online most of my life, building communities. Did it help with my placement in the Influence Project? Here’s the breakdown, as of right now:
- Two people have signed up for the Influence Project directly from my link.
- Two people have signed up from the links of those I’ve influenced.
- When last I looked on Thursday after signing up, I was ranked around 3,400 our of 29,000
- Oh, they removed the numbers: It now says I’m in the 94th percentile out of 32,000+ users, meaning I’ve gone up to around 1,900
So, does this mean I’m influential? Oddly, not at all. Four people signed up, out of 13 clicks on the bit.ly link I circulated (by one Facebook post, three tweets, and one blog post).
We need a better example for contrast. Case study: iJustine Ezarik. Justine is very well known online – in fact, so well known that I’m almost hesitant to use her as a study because I can guarantee I’ll miss critical details. So we’ll be really minimalist about this, and only look at some specifics:
- When I signed onto the Influence Project, iJustine was ranked 9 out of 26000 users. Pretty impressive.
- At the moment, she has more than 4,600 direct sign-ups recorded to her name, and sits in the “99th percentile” meaning she’s likely maintained her ranking quite nicely over the last week.
99th percentile, out of 32,000 users? This conceivably puts Justine anywhere from rank 1, to rank 320 – which is a wide range to be in. What effect does this have on comparative value?
Face value is a quantum currency – as soon as it’s measured, its perceived value changes.
Yes, I’d have expected to see people like iJustine, and even Mr Shoemoney in the top 1 percent. That’s not surprising. When we think about web celebrities and influencers, we can all probably name between fifteen and twenty people – most of whom will end up in the top 1 percent.
Putting people in the top 1 percent isn’t proper perspective for this Project, however. Guessing at where we’ll sit – and being proven right or wrong – is much more interesting.
Fast Company’s concept is pretty simple, and it’s all over the project’s site: You’re more influential than you think. It’s true – I wouldn’t have expected to be in the top 5 percent of influencers online. But look at the numbers – from Justine’s 4,600+ links, to my two is a big gap. That was enough to get into the top 5. What about the other 96% of those who signed up?
Over 30,000 people have less than a combined 13 clicks to their profiles, 2 first-tier influences, and 2 second-tier influences.
This tells me the web, as a whole, is entirely ineffectual at getting people to do the simplest thing it could possibly ask them to do: “Click this link, because what you’ll see there is pretty cool!”
The biggest argument in favour of building community and being a leader – in any arena – is influence. Making a place for yourself where you are given the implicit permission to ask for things (assuming you’re ready and able to reciprocate) is touted as a good idea. What the Influence Project says, however, is that gaining any kind of measurable influence is easy, but can be very distracting from the reality that any influence is only as good as what it’s used for. Using your power for self-assessment (like asking people to pump you up on Fast Company’s dime) or frivolously expending energy flailing your clout about the net is bad business practice.
How can we do better? How can we build lasting influence, measure it, and then put it to good, practical use?
Image by Reinante El Pintor de Fuego.