Thoughts about the “Fast Company Influence Project”

I can’t tell you anything about the actual Fast Company Influence Project because I never clicked on it. I never came close to clicking on it, which is where I feel we will discover some of the myriad lessons to be learned from this situation.

First Impression

The first time I heard of the project, I didn’t hear of the project.

What I mean by that is that I didn’t realize that I had had a run-in with the project before I realized that a) there was a project and b) people didn’t like it.

I’m sitting here minding my business, having a productive day, as usual.. When I get an IM from someone that I rarely have IM conversations with…

When you haven’t communicated with someone in quite a while, you want to lead off your message with that person’s NAME or at least a simple “Hi” or “How are you?” to see if you get a response BEFORE getting to your agenda. This is not what happened. I received:

Hey. Did you join the Fast Company thing? Here’s a link to sign up [shortened link to who the **** knows what]

So first of all, my name wasn’t on it. Second, they threw their agenda at me directly. Third, they didn’t describe the situation as anything other than a “thing” (which is why I had no idea that this had been a connected event until later). Fourth, they sent me a SHORTENED LINK, which nobody in their right mind follows.

This entire thing reeked of SPAM and I wasn’t sure that this person’s account hadn’t been compromised. I sent back “Thanks, I’ll check it out… How is _______?”, referencing a new initiative I knew that person had recently started.

No reply.


So now, this thing looks COMPLETELY like spam, so I completely disregarded it and went on with my day.

Second Impression

Hours later, this buzz is going around about some Fast Company contest. It’s not a GOOD buzz, though. It’s people shaking their heads like “Why did they do THIS? Who thought THIS was a good idea? \o/”.

So I still wasn’t aware of this contest even though I receive the FC Newsletter every day. I don’t actually read their newsletter. It’s just something I haven’t bothered to unsubscribe from that I was AUTO-SUBSCRIBED TO back in 2007/2008 when I was a FC Expert Blogger:


The point being that in my particular case, a newsletter is being sent to me which has no influence over me, which probably contained references & links to this so-called “Influence Project”, which I’ll never know because I don’t care enough to skim back through the emails and check.

Public Impression

The other way I get my news is through Facebook. The reason why I have 2,237 Facebook Friends and 122 Facebook Fans is that I want to LISTEN to the people I’m connected to via social media, not TALK *AT* THEM.

I want to know what they think is cool & interesting & happening so that I can find out about it myself, but also so I can broadcast the info I find useful to the people that are following me. On a fan page, the only info you get from people pertains to YOU, which is a waste for someone like me who isn’t an entertainer. I already know about ME. I want to know about YOU.

* Side Note: Facebook automatically reduces your home page’s “Most Recent” stream to something like 250 people. Unless you want them selecting the 250 people that you’ll be listening to, go to the bottom of your “Most Recent” page, click “Edit Options” on the right side of the blue bar and increase the number in the box that says “Number of Friends” to a number that’s larger than your current number of friends. Click “S ave” and you’ll now see whatever your friends are posting, not some pot luck selection.

So anyway.. I hadn’t heard anything about this contest on Facebook, I wasn’t monitoring Twitter, because I only have so much time in my day and something’s got to give. I don’t read the [daily] newsletter and the only indication I received about this was half-assed and didn’t even have the term “Influence Project” in it… So, to me, the project didn’t even exist.

I’m not saying this because I feel like FC gives a damn about influencing Bill Cammack. I’m saying this because the people that I’m listening to ARE the influencers. I don’t need to be directly influenced because if 3 or 4 people whose judgement I respect as far as social media indicate that something good’s going on, I’m hopping on the bandwagon, sight unseen. I’m not going to PUB IT to anyone I know until I get inside and play around with the site or app and determine to my own standards of quality that it’s worth telling other people about, but as far as being an early adopter, I know some of the EARLIEST ADOPTERS around, so I’m perfectly willing to follow their lead in situations that they’ve already researched.

Unfortunately for Fast Company, this works in the opposite direction as well…

Negative Impression

When the same people whose opinions I respect begin posting, reposting & RT’ing why something was a BAD IDEA or at least misses the mark, I’m inclined to read their posts about the situation and STILL never visit the actual site/location/app they’re talking about.

In fact, the only reason I’m writing this right now is that friends of mine are STILL buzzing about what a bad idea this was, so I decided to throw my two cents in. >:D

This is the reason you don’t want “just anybody” making up your social media strategy. Vision, Perception & Ability are all relative. If your concept of influence is flawed or skewed, you’ll never know that because it’s your idea and it’s what your version of reality’s based upon. If you think that the number of random people that you can trick into signing up for something indicates INFLUENCE, you’re barking up the wrong tree and you’re tarnishing the reputation of any company that takes your advice.

Pyramid Schemes work by each person telling the person below them that they can get rich if they can convince people to follow them. The more people you have under you, the more money you can make. What they don’t tell you is that the money is made by duping more suckers into joining the scheme. 😀 The product isn’t whatever you’re selling… The product is *YOU*. You’re like the cow that got told to come to the farm to give milk and then you’re like “Huh?.. What the hell is HAMBURGER??? O_o”.

Wrong Impression

Similarly, INFLUENCE has nothing to do with NUMBERS. I know of people that have tens of thousands of Twitter followers and everyone that I respect recognizes them as clowns. Their “Calls To Action” produce nothing at all (for example, 30 viewers to a live stream when you Twitter it to your 20,000 followers once every 20 minutes for two hours). They have ZERO unique opinions, regurgitating what they read in Mashable or TechCrunch or TechMeme. The majority of the people they’re following are robots, defunct accounts and real accounts of people that have nothing relevant to contribute at all. This is why between their own brains and the people they’re listening to, nothing unique or groundbreaking is ever produced.

I’ve been complaining about this literally for years, as talentless people are consistently selected for projects because the companies are banking on the fact that this person has 100,000 followers across several social media outlets, so every single one of their GARBAGE videos will appear to be well-received and popular because of the fanbois clicking on any tinyurl these so-called influencers feed them.

What happens next is that companies consistently get what they deserve. NOTHING! 😀 They hire scrubs that make GARBAGE content and then they get lots of page views from people that aren’t the target audience of the advertisers, which results in ZERO click-throughs, ZERO video views, ZERO subscriptions and generally ZERO ROI for the company that thought that the number of people following someone on Twitter indicates that their content or ideas are worth something.

The funny thing about this is that MOST of the actual influence occurs on the back-channel, where people say what they really feel about what’s going on. It’s not found out here in the open where people can read our ideas today and Google our ideas 3 years from now. The people that you think AREN’T influencers are having their discussions IRL, f2f and you never hear about it while your company goes down the tubes because you’re taking advice from the wrong people.

Lack of Impression

Bill CammackUltimately, everything we’re doing is attempting to catalyze Conversion.

It’s all well & good that you can attract attention to yourself.

It’s lovely that you were able to amass 30,000 Twitter followers by clicking “follow” on every single post you saw in the live feed and hoping that they followed you back.

It’s great that you take pictures at conferences with other people.

It’s sweet that you know a lot of people whose names you can drop in Twitter posts.

It’s pathetic when you pull out the gun and squeeze the trigger and everyone realizes you have no bullets.

If you can’t convert, you’re useless. Period. If what you’re offering isn’t going to result in a company being better off than when they hired you, they should have saved their money or hired someone with a proven track record in that field.

Conversion isn’t achieved by getting people that don’t own lawns to visit a page where they’re selling lawn mowers. O_o The number of “nobodies” that you can get to sign up for something indicates your POPULARITY on the net as opposed to any potentially useful business value.

In order to be an “influencer”, you have to be able to run with the Big Dogs and potentially influence OTHER INFLUENCERS. Your ideas have to ultimately land in the laps of people who represent conversion to your clients. Getting a bunch of people to sign up for something proves nothing at all…. well.. other than proving that you don’t know what influence actually is.

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  1. Well said Bill! It’s like people suddenly forgot how hollow this whole social media business was when it started. You’d think the marketers who are around now would have either been there in the beginning, or learned from those who had been.

    It’s less about how big your community is, but rather how deep those relationships are. And yes, yet again, you’re schoolin’ them on what matters in this social landscape. well said.

    1. Thanks, Vergel. 🙂

      That’s exactly the issue. We’re into what could be considered a second generation now (or, at least a NEXT generation after ours). We were all about meeting actual PEOPLE and creating and maintaining meaningful relationships to them.

      Now that the next generation has found out that you can get ahead in business or whatever they’re trying to do by having a bunch of people you’ve never met or had a single conversation with “following” you on social media sites, they think that getting a bunch of people to click “follow” means that you have INFLUENCE, when a) it doesn’t mean anyone’s going to respond to a call to action you make, and b) even if they do.. WHO THE HELL *ARE* THEY? 😀 How are they going to be of import or use to you or your client? They’re not.

      This is why the concept of determining who’s influential by the number of people that they can trick into joining a free pyramid scheme is just plain retarded. You might have 17 followers on twitter, but I’ve met you and watched your content and I value your opinion to the degree that YOU have influence when I want to know about something that you already have experience with… music, bikes, renovating houses, whatever. Influence isn’t getting me to click something. It’s creating a conversion. SOMETHING has to happen for SOMEBODY that wouldn’t have happened if not for the influencer.

      Of course, one could argue that Fast Company influenced a bunch of people to get their website a lot of hits. That would be a fair assessment. They also influenced people to notice that they used corny tactics. They also influenced people to write unfavorable blog posts about their project.

      Someone else brought up an interesting point I hadn’t thought of. If someone games their system, they’re going to have to put some nobody’s face on their magazine, holding him or her up as the most influential person they found on the internet.

      Emperor, Clothes… Clothes, Emperor.

      1. All and all, the contest is a hollow win at best.

        if the goal was to get a bunch of ppl to write about Fast Company (and how lame the contest is) then the zine succeeded. As a result, if the magazine issue ends up with a nobody on the cover, well… that’s just showcases the value of their magazine.

  2. Ah yes, and after trying to figure out why I’ve repeatedly unsubscribed from this app in facebook and kept having it come back, a google search to figure out what it even is led me here. I vaguely remember seeing this this summer, but what I’d really like to know now is why won’t facebook let me unsubscribe from it? Suggestions?

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