Fast Company’s Not Getting Influencers. In Fact, They’re Pulling A Fast One.

Fast Company's Influence ProjectIn some of the most recent blog posts that I’ve written here on The Digital Letter, the topic of conversation has revolved around influence. Whether it’s determining your influence on Twitter through Klout or just how you can find the influencers effectively through the Interneton Twitter or through other countless ways, we’re always trying to determine how much influence we have over others and for those with businesses, it’s important to be friends with those that can steer money our way. Earlier this month, a new supposed way for people to measure their influence was announced and this time done by the popular magazine Fast Company.

Called The Influence Project, the goal is for you to input your information into their system and then it should magically measure your influence. But…it doesn’t. Yup, that’s right…it doesn’t measure your influence. What it DOES do is prompt you to have your friends join the service and continue to propagate this meaningless gauge of one’s influence. As Amber Naslund, Director of Community at social media monitoring company Radian6wrote on her personal blog, she believes that Fast Company “missed the mark with The Influence Project, in a big way, and confused the idea of ‘influence’ with ego.”

Here’s how the process works:

First of all, chances are that you came across Fast Company’s Influence site through a tweet or someone sent you a link. From there, you need to enter in your information and build out your profile. From there, you get an email. And then it all becomes quite clear…

1) You can use any means to spread your unique link to your online network. We shortened it for you so you can share on Twitter and Facebook.

2) Your goal is to influence as many people to click on it as possible.

3) You want those people to sign up as well, since they will be spreading your influence along with their own.

4) You can track how your influence has grown, where it’s lead, and where you stand at any time on the site.

5) Your picture is going to be in the November issue of Fast Company magazine, where we’ll reveal the most influential person online!

So I apparently was wrong in my understanding of what true influence is. In fact, you shouldn’t listen to Klout or any other metric tool out there when they try and show you influence. It’s not engagement, conversation, or supplying useful and relevant content. Brian Solis had it all wrong in his book Engage. The true measurement of influence is to get people to click on a link and have them sign up.

Okay, yes, making someone do something is influence, but is it a sign that you have good influence? Can you muster that same influence to convince someone to buy another person’s product? What about convincing them that your political candidate is worth voting for? This is not what a good measurement to determine your influence. In fact, I would summize that Fast Company’s Influence Project in its current form is nothing more than a giant phishing  and data mining expedition – dare I say a virtual “pyramid scheme”? They’re just doing it wrong.

Your true measurement of influence is on how you can convince people to do something that you’re advocating. Getting the most clicks on a page is something we worried about in the 90s and now in 2010, we’ve moved past trying to get the most clicks. In fact, this effort is a bit elementary and probably is tantamount to a high school student council election where the victor is named based on the popular vote…the cool kids gets the most votes. And while I might be a bit naive about this whole thing, but the way that Fast Company is using the word “influence” is a bit extreme. In fact, they’re just throwing it out there like it’s just another word.

Look closely at the above email once again. In the second point, Fast Company states that your goal is to “influence” as many people to click on it as possible. Why don’t they say that your goal is to get as many people to click and be more popular? Did some copywriter think that influence should be tied in because it’s The Influence Project? What about how the more people sign up, they’ll be helping you spread your “influence” along with their own? Is influence supposed to be considered a virus? Something that can be contagious? Deadly?

Maybe Amber Naslund was onto something when she said that this doesn’t measure influence. It’s about the ego. Probably just a poor choice of words.

Image Credit: Fast Company’s The Influence Project

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently Flipboard's Assistant Managing Editor, overseeing news curation in technology, science, gaming and health. In addition to his day job, Ken's the co-host of "The Created Economy" podcast, examining the Creator Economy. In a past life, he was a former reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding.