How Oprah and Britney Kicked Guy Kawasaki’s Ass

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:

Top Twitter users on

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.

Want to see weird stuff? Try Kottke. Discussing the future of news? Head to Jeff Jarvis. Juicy gossip? Perez Hilton is your man. Questions about tech? Ask Zee.

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.

Google has all the answers - and seminars - you need... Or not?

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.

Published by Ernst-Jan Pfauth

Ernst Pfauth is co-founder and CEO of The Correspondent, a journalism platform for “unbreaking news” that successfully crowdfunded $2.6 million from 45,888 backers in November 2018 and will launch in mid-2019.

Join the Conversation

No comments

    1. Hi Job, thanks for the reply.

      Why wouldn’t Britney be an online opinion leader? Is she says something like: ,,OMG OMG, this new cd by X is soooo fantastic, I’m gonna buy it.” Lots of her followers will agree, might retweet it, and spread the word.


  1. Hi Ernst-Jan,

    thanks for an interesting post. I previously assumed that celebrities using the Web 2.0 stuff are the minority of that kind of communication, but now I see that they’ve become much more influential also online.

    Till now, I’ve only thought about niche stars as online opinion leaders, but that’s a new lead for my researches.

    I think that in polish social media networks we’re still in the phase one – the precursors of Web 2.0 are constantly in the lead. At Blip, the polish equivalent to Twitter, top 100 users list the celebrities are only a few %.

    Even at the commercial top 100 list, old opinion leaders are still at the top.

    An interesting case was the promotion of celebrities at the most popular polish social network . It was connected with implemetion of a new tool, giving users a chance for microblogging. At first people went on a strike and did everything to block the new functions. As a matter of fact, they used them in order to erase them … heh. But now I can see 2 things: there aren’t almost any negative comments to microblogging function, and celebrities profiles have more and more followers at that website …

    As You said, I guess it’s only a matter of time that celebrities will spot a new way to gather fans and keep their popularity at high level … but the real niche leaders will strike up again with a new tool, which will change our way of thinking … once more.


Leave a comment

Share your knowledge