Fast Company Asks: Who’s the Most Influential Person Online?

Clearly, I'm not the most influential person online, but who is?

Fast Company’s cover story for its November 2010 issue ought to be interesting.

The magazine has launched a search to discover the most influential person online. Dubbed the Influence Project, the magazine is capturing the social graphs of readers who enter a short bio and upload a photo. Whoever influences the most people to join the experiment is deemed the most influential. (Oh and the more influential you are, the bigger your photo gets on Fast Company’s Influence Project site. And your photo could be included in a cover illustration.)

Mark Borden, the Fast Company editor heading up the project explains:

What the Influence Project aims to do is remove some of the mystery behind the inherent passivity of social network numbers. 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?

I don’t know if I’d call this person influential, but I do think this project will help tell you a bit more about what Facebook calls your social graph. Businesses should learn a lot about social networking from this story and Fast Company will rake in tons of valuable data about its readers — for free, mind you.

Each person who enters is given a unique URL. Here’s mine. If you click on it, supposedly, I’m considered just a bit more influential than the next person on Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare.

If you ask me this little experiment is open to mischief, but I’m vain enough, narcissistic enough, curious enough to play.

What about you? Are you more influential online or off-line?

3 responses to “Fast Company Asks: Who’s the Most Influential Person Online?

  1. Hi John,

    I think you nailed. This is a project for people who are vain and narcissistic (okay, I don’t mean you).

    This project really annoys me, because it’s once again encouraging “click on my junk” behavior and equating influence with numbers.

    I’ve going to try to be a little less vain today and stay away from all these links.

  2. Daria — I just realized in my first draft I didn’t put the strikeout through “vain enough, narcissistic enough” as I intended.


    I do think another blogger better described this when they wrote that Fast Company is confusing ego with influence.

    While the site is perhaps a more robust way of measuring influence, I am hoping that Fast Company’s story will draw out these themes.

    We’ll see.

  3. Jocelyn Hawkes here, special projects editor for Fast Company. First, I want to thank you for taking the time to explore The Influence Project, and register even though you have some valid concerns. This project, or experiment if you will, is just one part of a larger editorial investigation of social media influence. We didn’t set specific guidelines regarding how people present their link to their followers and friends, and that is part of the project itself. We’ll see in the end how people react to the honesty or trickery involved in asking people to click on their link. The goal of the entire project, which began back in May when senior editor Mark Borden wrote about the viral marketing firm Mekanism (, is to learn more about how people become influential, and how they use that influence, and we hope to gain useful information that will help us all have a better understanding of social media. We will continue to explore this topic, even after the project closes on August 15, through updated blog posts on, and the results will be published in our November issue. Our latest post includes some specific details on the project that you might find interesting, you can read it here:

    Many thanks,

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