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Welcome to The Influence Project

The Influence Project

Obviously you're totally connected and know someone who knows someone because you're here on the inside at the outset. Actually, you're more than connected. You're an early adopter and a fearless explorer of the world of online influence.

I'd like to thank you for participating in The Influence Project. If your goal is to become 2010's Most Influential Person online, best of luck. But if you're like me and are intrigued by how influence works on the Internet and are curious to see what happens when a person's social network is asked to act, then I believe we're set to gain some valuable insights.

What the Influence Project aims to do is remove some of the mystery behind the inherent passivity of social network numbers. This experiment will show what happens when an individual takes an audience at rest and applies an unbalanced force—through suggestion, advice or direction—that converts it into an army of action. That's power that can be quantified and lead to an understanding that can be applied to both the largest and smallest of networks. No doubt it's profound to address a million followers and get 100,000 of them to respond. But what does it mean when you have one hundred friends on Facebook and 97 of them click through to a site on your recommendation?

The clicks and networking and connectivity (out to six degrees!) collected in this experiment will provide a compass for where real influence lies on the Internet. It's something I'm sure every business is curious to know more about. I also think it's a powerful bit of awareness for anyone who wants to know who in their network is fully engaged with them.

Of course, as powerful as influence can be, it's also a fragile and slippery seductress. Abuse the privilege, and poof, it's gonzo (just look at Tiger Woods or Bernie Madoff or the infamous lobbyist Jack Abramoff). Who knows, there may even be people involved in this project who exert tremendous influence in the time this plays out, yet do something that undermines their credibility when this story in the making becomes a feature on the new influentials for Fast Company's November issue. As Vonnegut said, "So it goes." Even locked in time, I'm certain the results are going to be thought provoking, surprising, and dare I say it, enlightening.

Personally I'm fascinated to see what happens as I immerse myself in the social media currents. While I have a Facebook profile (312 friends) and a Twitter account (as of this writing I've sent four tweets to my 8 followers), in many ways I feel like a print-media chimpanzee on the verge of evolving into a 21st Century digital humanoid.

I've always been an optimist and already I find myself imagining how this all works out. I'm excited to exert some influence on you and I'm especially looking forward to feeling the force of your influence on me.

Something tells me it's going to feel a little weird.

Good weird.

But weird.