Fast Company’s “Influence Project” – So Lame, Fast Company Ignored Its Own Results

Cast your mind back to July. Fast Company launched its “Influence Project,” a scheme supposedly designed to see who has the most influence online. The results are in! And the winners aren’t anyone that Fast Company mentions in its write-up about the project. That’s how stupid the entire thing was. [NOTE: Turns out, the winners do make it into the magazine in a separate article — more below].

Fast Company initially pitched the effort this way:

This experiment will show what happens when an individual takes an audience at rest and applies an unbalanced force–through suggestion, advice or direction–that converts it into an army of action. That’s power that can be quantified and lead to an understanding that can be applied to both the largest and smallest of networks. No doubt it’s profound to address a million followers and get 100,000 of them to respond. But what does it mean when you have one hundred friends on Facebook and 97 of them click through to a site on your recommendation?

The clicks and networking and connectivity (out to six degrees!) collected in this experiment will provide a compass for where real influence lies on the Internet.

Awesome — we’ll finally know who has real influence! If you ask me (and SF Weekly did, in its write-up on the project at the time), about who has influence on the internet, you’ll hear some familiar names. As I said:

Steve Jobs decides not to include Flash on the iPad, which causes a huge ripple among web publishers. That’s influence! But this “Influence Project” will measure none of that.

It’s fair to say that some of the most influential people on the web aren’t going to take the time register in a project, to begin with. I mean, they’re influential! As part of being influential, they’re probably busy doing the things that made them influential in the first place, not worrying about proving their influence.

Can you see Eric Schmidt, Steve Ballmer, Carol Bartz or Steve Jobs – all of whom are fairly influential people on the web – taking time from running their companies to register?

There was plenty of criticism about the project, and how it would play out. But no more guessing or speculation. The final results are out. And the most influential person on the interwebs is …. Shoemoney!

Shoewho? Most people outside the SEO and affiliate marketing spaces probably won’t know the name. Shoemoney (sometimes written “ShoeMoney” is the online moniker of Jeremy Schoemaker, who runs the Shoemoney blog. Shoemoney is a great guy. He has a well-deserved, loyal following. But respect to Shoe, he’s not the most influential person on the web. He’s just a master of playing Fast Company’s lame poll in his favor.

How about some of the other most influentials? Here’s the top ten:

By name, they are:

  1. Jeremy Schoemaker
  2. Shefqet Avdullau
  3. Tod Sacerdoti
  4. Cory Boatright
  5. Greg Clement
  6. Frank Kovacs
  7. Sebastian Saldarriaga
  8. James Dunn
  9. Richard Lee
  10. Pace Lattin

Congrats to each and every one. You worked your networks, proved your influence according to Fast Company’s own rules, and you deserve to be included in Fast Company’s story about the project’s final results — “The New Faces Of Social Media,” which starts out:

From YouTube celebrities to chief social-media officers, these unexpected players exert outsize impact and power online — offering new channels of communication that businesses can’t afford to ignore.

You deserve to be there, because you are absolutely the unexpected players according to this poll. But you’re not there. Sorry. I guess you weren’t the faces Fast Company was looking for.

Who is there? The story starts out with a profile of Justine Ezarik, “iJustine,” who we are told:

The most effective participant by far in this regard was iJustine; she converted 4,800 of her friends and fans into participants — 15% of the eventual 33,000 participants.

Odd, I thought Shoemoney won. Oh — but wait, she’s the most effective of those in the “YouTube Celebrities” category that Fast Company decided needed to be created — one of six categories that were never mentioned in the initial project.

Overall, the winners are like this:

  1. Justine Ezarik, YouTube Celebrities
  2. Jill Fletcher, Chief Social Officers
  3. Gary Vaynerchuk, Gurus
  4. Christopher Poole, Cabals & Compatriots
  5. Greg Allan, Specialists (apparently, it’s kind of hard to tell)
  6. Jonah Peretti, Filters

Shoemoney, by the way, would be considered a “guru” by many. Not only doesn’t he get listed as the top guru. He’s not mentioned in the guru section at all. And as best I can tell, none of the top ten in the poll got mentioned at all.

I thought the project was lame from the start. Ignoring those who actually won the contest is even lamer. Far classier would have been to have done the story about the real “new faces” that won. They actually have a lot of lessons that Fast Company’s readership probably could learn from.

Postscript: Fast Company editor Bob Safian commented below that the winners are mentioned in the magazine. Indeed, there is a separate article about them, with interviews and covering the polls actual results. You’ll find it here, and it’s worth a read.

I was surprised that I missed this. I looked — and looked — for a piece like this. But you only find it listed if you go to where Fast Company lists all its stories by print magazine edition, something that I didn’t find that obvious.

The project slideshow itself was listed in an email to participants (I got one of these, as I signed up to see how it worked but didn’t promote it). It was also listed on the home page of the Fast Company site. That slide show linked to an About page, which in turn linked to that  “New Influentials” write-up, then another link back to the slideshow, plus a link to the blog about the project:

I went back to each of these — and back to the Fast Company home page — to scan for any reference to the winners. I found nothing. But after Safain pointed at the magazine table of contents, the “The Influence Project” took me there:

All of which shows two things. Fast Company needs to think better of its cross-referencing. And had I bothered trying to ask Safian or someone at the magazine, I’d have saved myself a blog post.