I've spoken before about whuffie deposits and withdrawals before. I'd like to think I deposit a lot into my whuffie account. I help people out with their campaigns, vote for them when they ask and generally follow links, photos and blog posts I see and RT, comment and pass along when necessary. I also spend a good amount of time helping friends out with advice, time and encouragement as well as spending a good amount of time on giving stuff out in general for free (posting links from my research, writing blog posts like this one, working for a large percentage of time on movements that help the general community like Coworking, etc.). So, all in all, I deposit quite a bit into my whuffie account. On the withdrawal side of things, I ask for very little. I have only asked for RT's and passing things along when it has to do with a charity or a movement that benefits others. I rarely, if ever, pass along links to my blogposts and ask people to read (although I do post them to twitter now since they are infrequent). I love to highlight others work more than mine and have a problem in general asking for withdrawals.

So, when the voting for Cogaoke came up, I decided that I could 'spend' some of that saved up social capital/whuffie and get myself enough votes to be near the top of the performing list.

How it works: last year the fine folks at Happy Cog created Cogaoke, a once a year karaoke contest taking place at SXSW Interactive. Contest hopefuls created a profile and got people to vote for them to compete. Only the top 20 voted would get to compete for the coveted title of Cogaoke Champion. I was #21, which meant I missed out on competing and went and cheered on my friends who got to compete in the top 20. This year, Cogaoke is only allowing the top 15 voted up in advance to compete and changed the rules of voting (you can only vote once per day - last year, you could refresh your browser and game the system). Being utterly disappointed that I didn't get to compete last year, I was prepared this year. I had to treat this seriously if I was going to get in the top 15 and be allowed to compete.

So everyday for the past ten days, I've been barraging my followers on Twitter and my friends on Facebook to vote for me, trying everything from enticing them with the fact we will wear lingerie to perform Lady Marmalade to explaining that the vote itself takes less than 20 seconds to complete (no sign up required). I even posted a screenshot on Flickr giving instructions that show how easy it is.

Taking into account that there are four of us in our group doing the same thing daily and cumulatively having the largest following on Twitter and Facebook, the results have been quite shocking and a little disheartening. Calculating the number of votes we get per day, it's just over 100. Divided between four of us, that is 25 each. And seeing that I'm voting 5x for myself (one on each browser and one on my phone browser) each day, that's 20 per day! Seeing that I have 31,815 followers on Twitter alone, that's 0.06% of my followers that are actually voting (and that's taking into account that people are voting only once!). Not to mention that I also got the infamous Gary Vaynerchuk to ask his 878,000+ followers to vote and my SEO friend, Dean B to sprinkle it through is network...which got us probably a couple dozen votes in total.

I've said this before but haven't had great proof of it: NUMBERS OF FOLLOWERS DO NOT MATTER. I did a quick survey of the top 15 as of 3:00 pm today, comparing their 'reach' (twitter followers/facebook friends) and their votes and as you read down the list you will see that there is absolutely no correlation as to how many votes people have compared to their 'reach':

Contestant Twitter followers Facebook Friends Votes on Cogaoke Percentage of Votes (to twitter numbers)
Michael McDonald & The Morning After unknown unknown 1,860 unknown
Roger Niner 131 246 1,803 1,376%
Tamashii 165 129 1,425 863%
3rdMartini 682 324 1,406 206%
Naylor Swift (Glenda B) 4,314 1,392 1,392 32%
Haveboard 1,296 733 1,361 105%
JCroft 7,001 679 1,343 19%
Scott & Jonny Scott: 285 Jon: 208 Scott: 475 Jon: ? (unlisted) 1,295 262%
PJ Maximus 3,105 2,212 1,259 40%
Dot Jenna 1,806 4,129 1,073 59%
Soul Sisters (my group) Karen: 5,178 Corvida: 5,999 Amanda: 3,275 Tara (me): 31,815 Karen: 2,085 Corvida: 345 Amanda: 1,708 Tara (me): 3,848 1,072 2%
LaLa Fierce 2,062 324 1,061 51%
Scriggi-Tay David: 1,045 Scott: 1,934 David: 171 Scott: 1,028 976 33%
Woo 72 248 913 1268%
Tony B. Goode 1,966 620 818 42%

Now...I won't make any leaps into why it is that four attractive women who are real people, give a good amount to their community, have loads of followers, and offered lingerie donning have such a low percentage of votes to Twitter followers. I'm sure there are loads of factors involved, but I will say this:

  • your number of followers has little to do with your ability to influence
  • the larger the number, it seems, the lower the engagement per follower generally
  • numbers do not equal action in the real world - which should be the true measure of influence

Certainly, voting for a karaoke contest is not an action of higher purpose, I get that, but the 'spend' of 10-20 seconds should correlate at some level. I've seen similar discrepancies when trying to engage at a low time/energy spend high purpose level (asking to retweet and/or vote for a good cause).

I pretty much know for a fact that numbers don't matter, so some follow up questions to this are:

  • have networks grown so big and saturated with content that few people pay attention anymore?
  • did RickRolls, spam and phishing get us to the point where we don't trust clicking on links anymore?
  • does everyone just hate karaoke? Or me? Or me singing karaoke? ;)
  • since the promise of social networks and influence is obviously bunked, is there truly a path of influence that is decidedly old skool? (for instance, RogerNiner, who is a Karaoke Artist in his real life actually has a great list of people who support and follow him for his gigs via email) Or is it impossible to *really* figure it out because there are so many mediums and everyone has a different depth of engagement?

At the end of the day, I'm glad this happened. I've been looking for a good example to show in my presentations that demonstrates how little the numbers of followers/friends on social networks means when it comes to real world action. Unfortunately, the example may cost me the ability to compete for the second year in a row in Cogaoke... ;)

Oh yeah...and of course VOTE here if you haven't already! Today is the final day! (no sign up required btw)

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