Breaking Rant: Fast Company is Incredibly Stupid

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I had to write this short post, I just had to…

You are probably as tired as I am of seeing the tweets from people you follow (or used to follow in some cases) asking you to click their link so they can show their influence in the dumbest project since SXSW voting (I was going to say Enterprise 2.0 voting, but fewer of you might have gotten the reference – Mark Tamis blogged about that one).

I did participate in Enteprise 2.0 voting as I had a vested interest, and I did pester people who followed me at the time (some of them who don’t any longer) into CMS (click-my—– stuff, yeah- that’s it). I apologized at the time, and I do again now. I had a purpose, and I played the game as it was laid out in front of me. My intentions were pure, spread the message and build a bigger pie, but the implementation lagged due to lack of judgment.

Now that I have my mea culpa out of the way, I would like to address the issue of influence, as Fast Company defines it, and how it is not influence. I have said to as many people as they were willing to listen in the past that the killer app for the Social world is a universal reputation tracking engine. Your influence both varies and carries across all your social networks and fluctuates almost by the minute based on your last (and next action). There is no reliable way to measure reputation and influence – either on one channel or across multiple ones. Virtually all algorithms you see there assume that the number of followers (or retweets) you have is the key to measuring influence. Which of course, it is terribly wrong.

If you and I are members of the same community (one where followers are measured and reported, like Twitter or Facebook, or LinkedIn) and you have 10,000 followers and I have 50 I could have a lot more influence than you. If your followers are not decision makers, recommenders, connectors, or people with influence in the same industry, you are just having a conversation among friends as it is very likely that no action will come out of that. If my 50 followers are the people who make the decisions and set the wheels in motion and follow me because they trust me, I am ahead of you.

That brings us to Fast Company’s project. It does not measure influence, by any stretch of the imagination,it simply measures reach (as well as how popular people are). I could mount a campaign across networks to get people to click on my link, my reach across all networks is close to 120,000 people (I think I got this from some web-based tool or another). Does that mean I am influential to 120,000 people? Or that I can get 120,000 people to do what I ask if I ask often and nice enough? How does affecting the actions of 120,000 people for something that has not benefit for me or the world make me influential? Who gains and who loses from this?

I am not going to bore you with influence and reach, I will direct you to Dr. Michael Wu’s excellent series in the Lithosphere (and continuing work), or I could tell you to listen to @TheMaria (Maria Ogneva, from Attensity360), who said this morning:

(I think there are a few more criteria to it, but that sums it up very well in a short 140 characters or less).

So, going back to the title.

Fast Company is a magazine that I respect, trust, and had some influence at some time or another in my life. I wrote a few blogs in a now defunct blog I had there some time back, and I got good response. All in all, we had a good relationship — until then went stupid. How so? they decided to throw their reputation and their influence behind a high-school popularity contest. Alas, that is not the worse part — the worse part is that they call that popularity contest a measure of influence.

Sad, truly, that they are willing to lose their reputation over a stupid thing like this. Hope they reconsider – or at least that they put some serious content that distinguishes reach and influence in their November issue. Right after the pictures of the most popular people in the world…

Am I wrong? Right? What says you?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Esteban Kolsky
ThinkJar, LLC
Esteban Kolsky is the founder of CRM intelligence & strategy where he works with vendors to create go-to market strategies for Customer Service and CRM and with end-users leveraging his results-driven, dynamic Customer Experience Management methodology to earn and retain loyal customers. Previously he was a well-known Gartner analyst and created a strategic consulting practice at eVergance.

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