In this age of the internet, anyone can achieve celebrity-type status on the web. The playing field is leveling; no longer do individuals with enormous wealth and fame act as the gatekeepers to power – the common man is increasingly grabbing a bigger chunk of the influence pie.

What we are seeing is the rise of the New Influential.

I made up that term but I believe that it accurately describes what this blog will be all about. I am interested in studying how the concept of influence has changed as a result of social media.

Since this space is still being defined, there is much to talk about.

“Influence” according to the dictionary is defined as thus:

the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others

The basic idea of influence remains the same, but the tools, methods and perspectives we apply to obtain and keep influence have changed dramatically.

As social media begins to mature, many believe that the New Influential will be increasingly defined by a number. There are a number of startup companies that are built around measuring your online influence across social networks and then assigning you a score.

Two companies set to be huge players in this space are Klout, and PeerIndex, who are both clamoring to become the definitive service for online influence assessment. Klout recently made headlines by partnering with the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas. People with high Klout scores were eligible to receive perks typically reserved for traditional influencers.

A slightly different but similar service comes in the form of Empire Avenue, where users can buy, sell, and trade “shares” of online personas, and the stock price is directly correlated to a user’s activity and authority across social networks.

Klout’s partnership with the Palms raises many interesting questions. Although the web is considered to be The Great Equalizer, history tells us power is ultimately concentrated in the hands of a few. It will be interesting to see if a new social caste system will be created, which is especially interesting given that the gap in inequality world-wide is increasing.

Will these scores operate similar to credit scores? Just as a poor credit score dictates how much credit one can get, will a low Social Influence Score dictate my place in society? Will having a low credit score determine where my children can go to school, or what jobs I can get in the future?

How will the government handle the rise of the New Influential? Will we see more governments crackdown on social media as platform for protest like Egypt is doing?

Also, how would a service like Twitter affect the messages of Martin Luther King or Gandhi? Who are the Martin Luther King’s and Gandhi’s of today, and how are they using their new-found influence to drive social change?

Finally, is the argument concerning influence vs. popularity a valid one? Do influence and popularity mean the same thing? Is Britney Spears more influential because she has over 1 million followers on Twitter? Or is John Doe, the marketing expert more influential because his tweets have a 50% chance of being retweeted by his 200 followers, with whom he interacts frequently?

We have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to measuring online influence. I’m excited to see what is in store.

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