Michał Walusza is a Polish student and is currently working on a Master thesis about opinion leaders in virtual communities. He emailed me with a question: ,,How to become an online opinion leader?” Here’s my two cents.
In the early days of Web 2.0, most informal leaders in virtual communities were geeks. Chaps like Robert Scoble and Michael Arrington. They made the hypes, determined the agenda. But lately, they’ve become less influential. Why is that, you ask? Well, because the opinion leaders from the mass media have found their way to Twitter and Facebook. They’ve gained thousands of online followers in a couple of months.
Let’s have a look at the Twitter Top 100 for example. In the early days, geek visionaries like Pete Cashmore, Guy Kawasaki, Chris Sacca, and Leo LaPorte dominated the list. But when you browse to the Top 100 now, this is what you’ll see:
The ‘real life’ celebrities have taken over. Web 2.0 used to be a democratic answer to traditional media. Everybody could be an influential. Even some grumpy lawyer. Yet now the inequality has also reached the domains of Facebook, Twitter and the likes.
Sure, everybody has their own medium, their own publication channel. But most of them get ignored. The Oprah’s of the world have gently adopted the role of the early adopters used to have. If you’re famous in real life, you are so online. And if you’re not. Well, enjoy your niche.
We still have micro celebrities though
That doesn’t mean the web is exactly the same as television. We still have the micro celebrities. People who are the conversation leaders of their niche.
The micro celebrities get the most trackbacks/ retweets, always have the most commented blog posts, and get invited to conferences to speak. In their niche, they’re world famous rock stars.
How to become such a celebrity?
How to become such a micro celebrity? Guide your community. Interview its members. Fight the status quo, disagree with the general opinion in a well-mannered and constructive way. Go to as much meet-ups as possible. Give the crowd a face and become the face of the crowd (read more about that: ,,How do I get attention?”)
The time of online influentials is behind us. Kawasaki and the likes have become influentials in their niche. That niche used to be whole Web 2.0 crowd. But no to worry, the early adopters will find another medium and give a spin to it. That’s the beautiful evolution that comes with this digital media age.