When anybody publishes a social media list such as the Conversation Agent's 100 PR People Worth Following on Twitter, people take notice — both those who are on the list and those who are not.
Maybe just as interesting as some of the people on the list, Valeria Maltoni recently tracked and shared the varied reactions to it, which seems to range from dismissive cynicism to grateful elation. It contains some fascinating insights into social media.
"You're not famous until my mother has heard of you." — Jay Leno
As social media has continued to evolve, aggregation has been an increasingly powerful component, especially for those engaged in the field of communication and those hoping to be recognized for their thoughts and contributions. Whether those lists are post votes (e.g., Digg), authority algorithms (e.g., Technorati), participation in ranking programs (e.g., AdAge Power 150), or recommendations from well-read communicators like Maltoni, they tend to drive the discovery that happens online.
In fact, according to study excerpts from Spectrum Brand Strategy LLC to be released by BlogCatalog at BlogWorld this weekend, bloggers report they are most concerned about opinion affirmation and reader engagement over any other measure, which is vastly different than the ROI measured by most companies (but not so different from the most common goals set by consultants who want to be hired by those companies).
Being almost famous, it seems, has become a global pastime online. Enough so that many social media participants invest as much time developing tactics to climb to the top of something as some do creating content with value. A few even develop systems to create the perception of influence even when they are not influential. But that is precisely why Maltoni's list has impact. There was no algorithm to game. It was simply a matter of consistent behavior, which she simply states in her follow-up post.
"We all want to be famous people, and the moment we want to be something we are no longer free." — Jiddu Krishnamurti
If you are looking for trends in social media, Maltoni's list presents a one step removed glimpse of the future. Respected people over programs will eventually play a greater role in vetting the increasing amount of content being uploaded on the Web, much like editors and critics have done in the past. Some briefs are attempting to do this for public consumption. Some social media consultants (including our company) already produce private market intelligence reports for companies hoping to have an edge. And in the near future, we'll be doing more of it with an experimental project we have waiting in the wings.
It's a vastly different approach than previous algorithms, some of which only aimed to get the attention of the people placed on it (list owners used to get props for nothing more than ranking others). More and more often, it will be based on the quality of the content or level of contribution or basis of an idea because the value of the lists, recommendations, and vetted content will be determined by objectiveness over exhibiting favoritism or partiality to the so-called famous social media participants.
"I'd love to live in Ireland but I'd like to live as me, not what someone thinks I am." — Van Morrison
Another point of interest to take away from Maltoni's second post is, as mentioned, how various people react to being included or not. It's an extension of how they perceive being famous to some degree (even if the list had nothing to do with being popular).
In general, it seems that most were dismissive if they felt more famous than the list maker, grateful if they respected the person, irritated if they felt more famous than those included, eager if they were looking for a boost in their own popularity, and so on and so forth. In my case, I was grateful, especially because I never pursue being included on any algorithm list like the AdAge Power 150 or outreach-oriented compilation like All Top. I'd rather people discover content when they are looking for (and hopefully finding) something relevant or in developing a relationship along the way.
That road may take a little longer to get someone to their destination, but it also ensures you will never overemphasize "famous" in the social media equation or eventually find yourself lamenting those success like Van Morrison. It's better to remember that public relations and communication objectively vetted by humans is better, qualified or not (Maltoni is qualified), because the best lists have nothing to do with being almost famous, as Maltoni said. There are better measures.