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 recognize 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 recognized. 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 recognized 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 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.

Your Comments

  • Himanshu

    I don’t know exactly which list you are referring to. 2011 ‘best of list’ is supposed to come in December of 2011? I think popularity is positively correlated to influence. If you have no popularity then you will not be able to influence anyone except people in your close social circle like friends/colleagues. So for example if you are declared one of the top bloggers of 2010, your influence will rise along with popularity. I can’t think of a single person who is a great influencer but not popular.

    • Lisa Barone

      I’m referring to every list that is about to come out as bloggers fight for pageviews. Give it a week.

      You may need some degree of popularity to have influence, but you don’t get influence just because you’re popular. They’re different. Just because I know of something doesn’t mean it could compel me to do something or that I’d want to be associated with it. Best Of lists on popularity, not actual influence.

  • Jonathan Fashbaugh

    Sure to be recognized as one of the best posts of 2011!…I kid. I think it’s important to just be the best you can to the people that immediately surround you (clients, yes, but also co-workers, friends, family, the guy who brings you your food at Chili’s), and good things are bound to follow.

    • Lisa Barone

      You mean sure to void me of every being nominated for anything ever again. ;)

      I think the key there is to focus on serving people the best you can, not whether your name appears on some silly list.

  • Frank Reed

    So Lisa, are you implying that all the back-slapping and hand shaking and “atta-boy!”s we throw around in the industry aren’t genuine :-)?

    What am I going to do with my days now?!?!?

    Here’s to plenty of action in 2011 with a lot less busy-ness. Go get’em.

  • Gabriele Maidecchi

    I don’t like that kind of lists, never did. However I never ranted against them, I just let them be. It’s not just about social media, if you turn TV on for a second – I had the unfortunate idea to try that, urg – it’s full of hottest 2010 woman lists, hottest 2010 guy, funniest 2010 video on the Interwebs, best 2010 song bla bla bla.
    Lists attract chattering audiences, they create buzz, and that’s all the gossip machine really needs to grind money.

    • Lisa Barone

      They definitely create buzz, which is why so many people do them. They just become distracting when we start obsessing over them and worrying about if our name appears on the list or not. Focus on things that build your business. Chances are those lists really don’t.

  • Natalie

    I disagree to the person that commented “I can’t think of a single person who is a great influencer but not popular.”

    Hitler is a perfect example. He influenced Germany first into committing atrocities and then he influenced the world into changing how things are done. He is probably one of the biggest reasons that history took the course it did.

    Don’t assume that people who influence are always doing it for the love of man kind. Definition in the dictionary of influencer

    “A power affecting a person, thing, or course of events, especially one that operates without any direct or apparent effort”

    • Lisa Barone

      Heh. There’s definitely a difference between popularity and influence. Hitler is a very good example. :) Also an excellent point and looking at people’s motivations behind what they’re doing. What’s their agenda? We all have one.

  • Sue

    Couldn’t agree more. Popularity just means people know you (or want to) – and they want it to be public knowledge. Whether people are willing to act on what you say is a totally different measure of success.

    One person could have a thousand readers/followers – but none who pay attention. He is definitely popular – but has no more influence than a person with half the readers/followers, who take action with every post.

  • netmeg

    I’m not on any lists, because nobody knows exactly what I do. And I’m keeping it that way.

  • Jim Rudnick

    @Lisa…those lists are as you said, just a way to build blog page views….

    we ignore them….and don’t write them and don’t click on them either…

    that said, I do wonder if there is a blog title somewhere out there that WOULD get me to click….I doubt it….but ya just never know, eh!



  • Robert Brady

    Not all of the lists are bad (though many are). The easiest measure of a list is whether or not it gets the reader to DO something. A list from a highly influential person will get people to visit the sites of the companies listed, read the blogs of the top bloggers, get a quote from the top SEO agencies. A list from a popular person may get a lot of views, RTs, comments, etc. but do the readers actually take action?

  • Paul L'Acosta

    I created a folder and started filling it with “must reads” and “best of” lists too. I suddenly had to stop adding to it when I realized just putting some time aside to read those I pretty much needed the whole new year. Oh man, and to know there are more that didn’t make it inside the folder… Insane.

  • Mitaroy Goa Hotel

    I love the beginning of your post Lisa.

    As New Years Eve nears, there is an insane amount of hope in the air. The promise for a better future is at our fingertips. Then the New Year hits. And the New Year turns out much like the old one.

    I wonder for how many of us the New Year is actually different from the old one. And why do we need to wait for a whole year to make new resolutions ?

    Can’t we just wake up one morning and change our habits ? Go out there and do it wrong quickly…what ever it is we have been wanting to do…

    Just a thought !


  • Jenn@t1 service

    Oh, you know, these lists are great for people with list addictions. But you’re right, they don’t mean a whole lot.

    You’ve made a great distinction between popularity and influence–that’s something probably most people don’t think about. Like, I read recently about a guy who went around trashing other people’s businesses and treating his customers poorly. This got him a lot of media attention, backlinks to his web site, and created a stir. He was popular. But at the end of the day, nobody wanted to work with him anymore, so his influence was 0. He clearly fell into the popularity=influence trap. And then he went under.