A few weeks ago, Fast Company launched their Influence Project, a contest of sorts to find some of the most online socially influential people. Billed as an experiment to find a compass of where real influence lies on the Internet, it’s had some pretty bad publicity from bloggers and influencers alike. The experiment is being named a bad popularity contest with no real measure of influence.

The reason for the bad publicity and it being called a popularity contest (Amber Naslund wrote a great post about it) is that it’s less about how much influence one really has and more about how many clicks one person can get their friends and family to make; i.e. a person with 1,000 friends gets 10 clicks and a person with 100 friends gets 10 clicks.

Who has more influence? Percentage-wise, I’d say the person with 100 friends who got 10 percent of their tribe to do something. But, according to the Influence Project, the person with 1,000 friends would be more influential (though they had only one percent return).

Enter the Hijack of the Influence Project

This past weekend, my friend Nate St. Pierre sent a note saying his company, It Starts With Us, is hijacking the Fast Company Influence Project and he asked for some help gaining awareness. In his blog post about the idea, he says…

I think we’ve waited long enough for something beneficial to come out of this project. I know that Fast Company has good intentions, but at this point it isn’t really going too well for them. So here’s how it’s gonna work from here on out: We’re taking over, and we’re going to use our “influence” to do something good – something to make a difference in people’s lives. We’re going to show the world that this can be much more than a silly popularity contest, and that we don’t have to accept the conclusions of Fast Company when they crown “the winner” (a dubious title indeed).

What that good is going to be is yet to be seen, but I’m intrigued. I’m also curious that Fast Company found out about the hijacking and reported it on their site on Sunday (read it here). Perhaps this is all fun and games. Perhaps it will make Mark Borden and the editors at Fast Company simply take note. But perhaps there is a bigger idea in here that may allow us all to create change and use the Influence Project to serve a better good.

I don’t have answers yet, but I’m certainly tuned in. I hope you are, too!

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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