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I can’t lie, every time I see a list of top social media or digital “influencers” pop up in my stream, I cringe a little. Why? Because 99% of the time, Top 10/25/50/100 lists are nothing more than linkbait and bullshit. Here’s how it usually works:

Agency/consultancy XYZ feels that it isn’t getting enough attention anymore. Their white papers or “content” aren’t all that great this quarter, traffic and lead gen are down, so they need to think of something to do to salvage their waning relevance. The quickest way to do that is to spend an hour or two creating an ass-kissing list that awards some measure of recognition to a predetermined list of social media gurus. It’s easy enough to do. Most of these lists are essentially clones of each other. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. The names are always the same and you know what they are. The process is as follows:

1. Google “Social Media, Influencer, Top, List.”

2. Cut and paste social media guru names from any of those lists. Make sure that you don’t include companies or organizations as it will defeat the purpose of the exercise. You’ll understand why in a minute.

3. Cut and paste the reason why they were selected by the person whose list you just ripped off, but change a few words so it isn’t technically plagiarism.

4. Come up with a really cool title.

5. Publish the list on your blog.

6. Ping every single social media guru on the list. Do this every hour until they respond and share your post with their entire network.

7. Remind them to do it again the next day and engage in small talk with them on Twitter and Facebook… err… Google Plus.

8. Enjoy free traffic to your blog for months.

Sometimes, gurus create lists like these themselves. It’s… well, you know. It’s done so much that I don’t even bother getting excited when I see a list of top influencers, top experts, top gurus, whatever, anymore. For the most part, they’re just copies of copies of copies. They provide zero insight into why these folks are experts or even valuable in their fields. They are the product of a lazy, cynical, unoriginal exercise in derivative self-promotion by proxy.

However…

Sometimes, someone takes the time to actually do it right. They take a careful look at an industry, research who does what and how, dig into their track records, weigh their actual influence rather than just their Klout score and the size of their network, and… well, sometimes, they put in the work.

This week, when I ran into BSMi’s 2012 Global Influencer Survey, I expected it to be another clone of top influencer/social media guru lists of Christmases past, but instead discovered a thorough, well-researched report that analyzes in detail what the top experts in three particular fields (social media, marketing and digital) have done this year, and explains why they are the best among us. This one really is different. When you browse through it, you’ll understand why. Clever way of presenting it too.

Just really great work all around from BSMi, as always. Click here or on the image below to check it out. (UK readers, click here.)

From now on, every time a “top” influencer list comes out, I want you to think about what you learned here today. 😉

Cheers,

Olivier

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PS: I also blog over at Tickr now, so go check out my posts there. (And take a few minutes to test-drive Tickr’s monitoring platform. Big stuff coming from these guys in the next few months, but shhhhh… I can’t talk about it yet.)

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And if you’re as tired of the bullshit as I am, pick up a copy of Social Media ROI – Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in your Organization. It was written to teach managers and executives how to build and manage social media friendly business programs and incorporate social technologies and networks into everyday business operations. The book is divided into four parts: social media program strategy & development, social media program operationalization, social media program management, and best practices in measurement and reporting. If your boss doesn’t yet have a copy, time to fix that. If everyone on your team doesn’t yet have their own copy, fix that too. No bullshit. Just solid methodology and insights. It makes for a great desk reference.

(Now available in several languages including German, Korean, Japanese and Spanish.)

CEO-Read  –  Amazon.com  –  www.smroi.net  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Que

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I am very proud, a little surprised, and frankly a bit humbled: The BrandBuilder blog made Social Media Examiner’s 2011’s Top 10 list of social media blogs. Proud because I don’t often make Top 10 lists, and I think this is the second time I have made this one. Surprised because this blog isn’t devoted entirely to social media topics, and the competition was fierce: 300 Nominees, many of which attract a lot more readers and attention. Humbled, because some of the other nominees and finalists are pretty solid professionals. (I’d better start upping my game a bit.)

The other 9 to share the badge:

Brian Solis: Brian is one of the web’s leading social media evangelists and his blog is required reading for businesses. He’s interviewed Katie Couric, for crying outloud! Who does that? Katie interviews you, not the other way around. (Unless you’re Brian.) His latest book Engage is kind of a must-have for anyone working in the social business space. One of the smartest and nicest guys in the business too.

TopRank: This popular blog, the brainchild of Lee Odden, provides exceptional social media advice and should be one of your daily destinations.

Convince & Convert: Jay Baer’s Convince & Convert provides outstanding content for businesses seeking to embrace social media. Jay is a second-timer as well. The discussions on his blog are usually pretty rich in insights and opinions, which is always nice.

Six Pixels of Separation: Mitch Joel offers consistent and thought-provoking content delivered with personality.

Social Media Explorer: This blog, from Jason Falls, provides excellent perspective on the current state of social media and should be a regular stop for serious social media marketers. This is the second year Jason has made our list..

Spin Sucks: Gini Dietrich’s blog takes a look at social media from a PR perspective, and does so with intelligence, insight and refreshing common sense.

Danny Brown: Danny Brown writes the truth. His blog is one of my favorite reads in the internet.

The Anti-Social Media: For something completely unique, check out Jay Dolan’s satirical blog on the state of social media.

BrandSavant: This unique blog from Tom Webster combines a great intellect with with common sense, giving it an edge.

I want to thank the Academy… Wait, no. Wrong speech. It’s only Monday.

Now that I’ve had my 15 seconds of shameless self-congratulatory back-patting, let me suggest that you try to find the next batch of voices that will influence your business thinking and perspective on social media and social business. The 10 of us aren’t really the best of the web. There are others who write amazing stuff and do amazing work, and you should strive to discover them.

Let me give you four more blogs you might want to check out (I don’t want to overwhelm you by making the list too long):

Geoff Livingston’s blog

Maddie Grant’s blog (Social Fish)

Gradon Tripp’s blog

Valeria Maltoni’s blog

Happy reading, and thanks for dropping by.

Cheers,

Olivier

 

 

 

 

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