Guest post by Olivier Blanchard
I can’t lie, every time I see a list of top social media or digital “influencers” pop up in my stream, I cringe a little. Why? Because 99% of the time, Top 10/25/50/100 lists are nothing more than linkbait and bullshit. Here’s how it usually works:
Agency/consultancy XYZ feels that it isn’t getting enough attention anymore. Their white papers or “content” aren’t all that great this quarter, traffic and lead gen are down, so they need to think of something to do to salvage their waning relevance. The quickest way to do that is to spend an hour or two creating an ass-kissing list that awards some measure of recognition to a predetermined list of social media gurus. It’s easy enough to do. Most of these lists are essentially clones of each other. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. The names are always the same and you know what they are. The process is as follows:
- Google “Social Media, Influencer, Top, List.”
- Cut and paste social media guru names from any of those lists. Make sure that you don’t include companies or organizations as it will defeat the purpose of the exercise. You’ll understand why in a minute.
- Cut and paste the reason why they were selected by the person whose list you just ripped off, but change a few words so it isn’t technically plagiarism.
- Come up with a really cool title.
- Publish the list on your blog.
- Ping every single social media guru on the list. Do this every hour until they respond and share your post with their entire network.
- Remind them to do it again the next day and engage in small talk with them on Twitter and
- Enjoy free traffic to your blog for months.
Sometimes, gurus create lists like these themselves. It’s… well, you know. It’s done so much that I don’t even bother getting excited when I see a list of top influencers, top experts, top gurus, whatever, anymore. For the most part, they’re just copies of copies of copies. They provide zero insight into why these folks are experts or even valuable in their fields. They are the product of a lazy, cynical, unoriginal exercise in derivative self-promotion by proxy.
Sometimes, someone takes the time to actually do it right. They take a careful look at an industry, research who does what and how, dig into their track records, weigh their actual influence rather than just their Klout score and the size of their network, and… well, sometimes, they put in the work.
This week, when I ran into BSMi’s 2012 Global Influencer Survey, I expected it to be another clone of top influencer/social media guru lists of Christmases past, but instead discovered a thorough, well-researched report that analyzes in detail what the top experts in three particular fields (social media, marketing and digital) have done this year, and explains why they are the best among us. This one really is different. When you browse through it, you’ll understand why. Clever way of presenting it too.
From now on, every time a “top” influencer list comes out, I want you to think about what you learned here today.