Geeks: The New Influencers
As a student, I certainly was thought of by my peers as a “geek” (as if you didn’t guess that already). Putting tags on people is something I never personally understood, although I’ve noticed most do it unconsciously. My peers perceived me as a geek, but the funny thing is it never bothered me. I always embraced what I saw as true to myself and never sacrificed my beliefs or values purely to fit in.
What’s the point of opening this post like this? Well, on the net – what wins? Certainly not the vanilla, not the middle-of-the-road, and not the content that exists purely to fit in. There’s far too much of that in our world, and the web sees through it.
If you’re a follower, you can never be an influencer
If you’re someone who has spent their whole life trying to look, act and talk like everyone else, blogging, creative web marketing, and being an influencer is not for you. If you’re merely average, you should move along, because you’ll never achieve success here – at least not big success.
To achieve real success, you need to be remarkable. You need to stand out. This involves having passion, having perseverance, having opinions, and having creativity – all of the things I was tagged as a geek in my youth for having. If I could go back, I would have been even more extroverted in my geekness growing up (and that would be hard, because I was already pretty extroverted).
Social networks are places for the average
The rise of monolithic social networks like MySpace and Facebook proves that the vast majority of people want to fit in and be like everyone else. Yes, you can add your interests on these sites and customize them for your own personality. But you’re still coloring within the lines. And, even popular people on these networks are not influencers outside of these walled gardens.
Also, people within these networks are more interested in connecting with people, and less so with consuming content and sharing ideas. I strongly notice the interaction level on Facebook and MySpace pales in comparison to the deep interaction levels on message boards, blogs and social media sites designed for sharing ideas, not necessarily just sharing people as content.
Inefficiencies, poor signal to noise ratio within social networks
The signal to noise ration inside of Facebook and MySpace make spreading viral messages and influence difficult, as these networks are literally flooded with fluff content, and the limitations of network segmentation make it difficult for things to spread between like minded people that may not know each other.
It’s hard working within groups of people who have to be manually connected to you to spread information to them. This is probably by design within these networks to stop anyone from having too much influence.
The funny part of social networks is they were built by geeks to create massive networks and take advantage of what they knew the average person would like. Now they are perceieved as ‘hip’ yet really the more time you spend in them, the more money and influence you’re making for a group of geeks – kudos to them!
Don’t ignore social networks entirely, but if you want to be an influencer do realize their limitations
Social networks are nice “ands” to have, and certainly stuff does spread virally within them, but I don’t see them as the strong viral channels other areas currently are.
You never see Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, etc, link you to a Facebook or MySpace page. Google doesn’t even link you to those things if there are better choices properly tagged.
Also, have you noticed how easily and quickly content and ideas move between blogs, social media and in the open web. All that content also seeps into social networks, but it starts in the open web. I don’t see much (if any) content start inside Facebook and MySpace and spread outward. It’s just not the way those networks and the people within them function.
Also, I don’t like playing within the “rules” of social networks as it’s never as fun as bending things to create your vision and have it work exactly the way you’d like.
Getting into the open web, creating a place which defines you
Creating your home base on the web is necessary as it’s the starting point for your personal brand and becoming an influencer. I wrote on this just the other day in an article on the rise of personal branding. A blog is the perfect space for this, and is an exciting place for you to build a crowd and exchange ideas as you see fit.
Using someone else’s network or page, you never know when they might change the rules or destroy something you have worked hard to build. If you have even more than a fleeting interest in the web and becoming an influencer, you owe it to yourself to build something that is uniquely you.
Building real, measurable influence
Combining your blog, your name and your personal brand with social media, creating must-share content, refining your strategies and building an audience is all great. But the conversations and networking that will stem from all of this and the real connections you will create are even more interesting and thought provoking.
Ultimately, the tides have turned due to new social tools, the democratization of publishing and has turned programming into the new literacy.
The old influencers
TV, newspapers, and many marketers fall into the category of the influencers of yestarday. There has been a massive shift in how information has spread and an influx of almost infinite new mediums and channels. What this has done is given everyone the power to build influence and allow the best ideas to spread.
Smart people, now given the choice, will take great care in what they read and consume. There is just too much information and news out there for them to waste their time on messages that don’t vibe with their worldview or have deep meaning to them. Sure, the fluff will always exist, and influence over the general population from mass media isn’t going anywhere yet. But, power and influence by small groups over those who have learned to filter the information that reaches them is already completely lost.
The title says geeks, but what I really mean is people with ideas and passion
As I said before, it is unfortunate that society places labels on people. The great news is that our world is changing, and the web is shifting power and influence to those with passion and perseverance. It’s putting the tools to spread information into the hands of people not doing it for money, but with the simple interest of spreading good ideas.
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