Friday, October 22

Being An Influencer: The Most Dangerous Label

One of the titles on Traackr is a tell-all. "Discover Who Matters." And, the easy inference might be that nobody else does.

I'm not knocking the service, today. There are hundreds out there. All of them claim to have the next quantifiable measure. Traacker is merely an example, another company striving to deliver on a service that is in high demand. It's rather amazing.

Are We Adopting A New Metric Of Human Valuation?

There is no denying that any novice social media or social network participant might be elated the first time one of their ideas or one of their projects catches attention. There is no question it is fun to come back from lunch, check analytics, and discover that a single post or tweet or Facebook addition ticked off a few thousand hits.

I know. I've been there, with 10,000 visits in a few hours. I cannot deny I smiled and told everyone in the office to check it out.

That was before social networks. Now, those numbers might roll in from anywhere: friends, followers, clicks, comments, connections, shares, blips, burps, and who knows what else. It is the ultimate in quantified "value" based on the metric of mass affirmation to determine personal and social regard.

Is this the future of social media? — I have friends. I have followers. I have subscribers. I am a contributer. I am valued. More than him, but less than her. And one day, I will be at the top of the mountain, climbing in rank and position. Is that all there is?

The Dangers Of Following Democratic Affirmation.

Last year, William B. Swann, Jr., writing on a different topic but one with relevant ties to social media, warned people away from too much self-help, especially those with an edict that goes "with enough repetitions, the argument goes, people who suffer from low self-esteem will transform themselves into highly self-confident individuals who will discover that the world is their oyster."

Social media couldn't be a better place to extract some evidence to support the fairy tale. It's one that I've seen cause otherwise savvy professionals to seek shortcuts to success in the effort to somehow actualize on the perception of influence, relevance, and acceptance. They feel they have to. Not enough metrics in one area or the other is developing into a new stereotype.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” — Martin Luther King

I too have a dream, for social media. That my two children will one day log on to some network and not be judged by the quantity of their connections but the context and content of their ideas. It touches on the subject that my son was learning at school during the anti-bullying campaign. The lesson that stood out most for him was to always be the first to reach out to the new kid on the block.

He has a good point. So does this 106-page paper on Self-Affirmation. I'm still reading it and may feature some finer points next week. But in the meantime, I am thinking about something else.

The original Z-List is long past its prime. Before it was gamed, most of those people either crashed out of the field or climbed the metrics ladder (with a few of those forgetting their roots, I might add). I'd like to resurrect something like it in 2011, with a twist to look for people who are looking for criticism as much as affirmation.

I'd like to get started today, but I need some help. I have to finish my book on a semi-related subject (but not tied to social media). I'm still curating the Fresh Content Project for at least another quarter. I also have Liquid Hip, which shows promise on its own. Naturally, I have a day job as well.

How You Might Help An Anti-Influence Project.

So specifically, I would like to ask for it in three different ways. I'm open to ideas on how to create a qualitative structure (not quantitative) that would emphasize virtual unknowns and potentially track them based exclusively on content/ideas. I'd like some new people in the communication field who have promise but are currently buried under the volume of experts. And, even though I have no idea where this might go in 2011, I'd be especially grateful for anyone who might want to work on such a project.

It's sure to be unpopular. But I am starting to think some disruption might be worthwhile. Of course, you can disagree too.

If you have any ideas, people I should be taking a hard look at, or want to put yourself on a short list to help, add yourself to the comments. Naturally, if no one comments, then I know this idea has even more merit. (That is a joke. Well, sort of.)
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