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  • Online Popularity in the Internet High Cafeteria


    Posted on December 30, 2010 at 5:13 pm


    I’ve been saying for years that the Internet is like a high school cafeteria – it’s essential a popularity contest to achieve top status whether it is the first page of Google’s search rankings, hot blogger status, or having the most influential social network. Turns out I’m in good company: Tom Weber’s article yesterday in The Daily Beast tells of how he gamed the system and pushed an obscure Science section article to the first page of the New York Times website via its “Most E-Mailed” list.

    It took Mr. Weber, a former Wall Street Journal bureau chief and columnist, 1,300 emails from a collection of friends and paid contractors to manipulate the New York Times list and move this article up to the number 3 “Most E-Mailed” slot. That means that 1,300 people influenced what the other 30 million-plus New York Times‘ readership saw.

    While the Internet is characterized by its populist nature, the downside is that noise trumps substance. A well-researched article or presentation simply gets drowned out by the millions of posts, re-Tweets and “Likes” on a celebutant’s outfit. And to add insult to injury, it turns out that the entire system can be gamed.
    So how do you compete? The answer is that you don’t.

    What matters is not popularity in the cafeteria, but popularity in your club. Getting heard in the online forums, LinkedIn groups and industry sites that your buyers, influencers and thought-leaders frequent is what should matter most to you. Don’t track standings in general – the opinions of Joe the Quarterback don’t matter in your club.

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