Why The 2011 "Best Of" Lists Just Don’t Matter

Every December I turn into a little kid at the hand of a month filled with magic. Between the winter holidays, the frothy drinks, and the extra time with people you love – it’s intoxicating.

All month your days are filled with warmth, hope and the promise that, if you want, you can make the coming New Year anything you desire. By the end of December, we resolve that we’ll try harder, work smarter and tackle things we long put off over the past 12 month. The promise for a better future is at our fingertips. We recognise it, publish our resolutions, and pat ourselves on the back for being so determined and forward-thinking.

Then the New Year hits. Almost predictably, we fall into the same patterns, reclaim our routine and become obsessed with stuff that simply doesn’t matter. It’s also about that time that the swarm of “Best Of” lists hits and people lose their damn minds.

You know what I’m talking about. The first few weeks of every New Year find us being smacked in the face with an endless supply of vanity lists. Lists that will attempt to identify the Best Twitterers, the best Brands, the Best Marketers, the Best Bloggers, the Best SEOs and the Best Everything. If your mentioned on these lists, congratulations on the art of getting recognised. If you’re not, congratulations on one less distraction.

There’s article over at Advertising Age that argues your followers are no measure of influence. They measure popularity, not overall influence or your ability to move something to do something. As a marketer, it’s the moving of people to do something that is your actual goal. Not to be recognised yourself. And that’s something these lists can’t measure.

Don’t get me wrong – they’re very often quite flattering. However, sometimes it feels like all these lists do is celebrate what was wrong with the year before. It’s not their fault, they’re measuring the only thing people can see – your outward popularity.  But as with lots of things, it’s not what you can see that should interest you. It’s what you can’t.

In 2011, I’d love to see people taking a pre-emptive strike against these Best Of lists. Let’s pre-emptively kill the whines, the passive aggressive status updates and the blog posts about how “unfair” these lists are. Let’s not bother obsessing over who was named, who wasn’t, and who should have been. It matters not and is dangerous for people who use them as a barometer of whether or not they’re on the right path.

January is filled with just as much magic as December. But it’s a different kind of magic. It’s the magic you give yourself vs. the magic that’s artificially created for you.

Undoubtedly, the next few weeks will see the blogosphere littered with lists ranking where you fall into the mix of things. If you want to use it as very (very, very) vague benchmark of the visibility you have may have created for yourself in 2010, feel free. But don’t get stuck there.

Don’t let it be a sign that you’re not in the game or even an indication that you’ve won the game and can slow down. Popularity means nothing, influence does. Influence takes work and isn’t reflected in the lists  or scores we’ll soon see published.

Build influence by figuring out what you want to do this year, how you want to grow your business, and then go do it. The rest of it – the lists, the chatter, the incestuous high fives? It doesn’t matter. It never did. Let’s try to stop talking about it like it does.

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