By Erik Qualman
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Link baiting, pyramid scheme, marketing genius? Yes. Fast Company’s Influence Project is a little bit of everything. The Influence Project is promoted by Fast Company as finding the most influential person.
Essentially, the person that drives the most traffic to http://www.fastcompany.com before August 15 will have the largest picture in the November issue of the magazine. My guess is that person will also appear on the cover. To date over 18,000 people have signed onto the project. It’s unclear if everyone will have their picture in the magazine (size of picture based on influence) or if only the top influencers will appear.
Bubbly Scottish-Canadian Mari Smith is the current leader and she was wise to start influencing early since your photo grows as the people you invite get others to join (i.e., pyramid in action). Leading up to the November issue, Fast Company is conducting spotlight articles on some of the top influencers like Smith and Scott Monty (Ford).
In the nature of full disclosure Smith and Monty are also friends of mine. Also the links in this article will give me influence, but I’ll never surpass Mari since she influenced me.
Whatever you think of the project, it has certainly produced a lot of free PR for Fast Company and will increase traffic for a few months. Jason Fell at foliomag.com reports that because of the link-clicking aspect associated with the project, Fast Company has seen its traffic spike about 20 percent this month. Fell also noted that Fast Company Executive Digital Editor Noah Robischon who at the time disclosed “Over 13,000 people have registered so far,” says executive digital editor Noah Robischon, “and it’s growing daily.” Now over 18,000 have joined and it continues to grow.
Free PR and opinions include:
“The Fast Company story turns influence into a ponzi scheme, a Flash-enabled popularity contest, and a high tech version of Narcissus’s reflection.”
Fast Company seems to have caught onto the fact that probably a good 50 percent of social networking is ego related and used it to formulate a cracker of a business plan: “The influence project,” is (almost) unapologetically a link baiting pyramid scheme.
“I really think they missed the mark with The Influence Project, in a big way, and confused the idea of “influence” with ego.
To me, influence isn’t about popularity. Or even reach. It’s about the trust, authority, and presence to drive relevantactions within your community that create something of substance. That last bit is key.”
“We’ve got links to click. Join me in my quest to put Chevy Chase, with an afro, on the cover of Fast Company Magazine. My work will then be done here.
And join us next week at TechCrunch when we’ll hold a contest to see who can click the most ad units on our site. Winner gets called “The Most Awesome Person Online” and we’ll put their picture on our home page for a day! And a free tshirt!”
While there are great arguments on each side of the debate, we do need to credit a traditional magazine for thinking progressively in an attempt to grow traffic and their subscriber base.