Why You Want to be the Hottest Person on the Team


Or why you care about lists.

This is a trend that is not going away — list-making. People pay attention to lists, spread them, vote their peers in, and ask to be included. It turns out that link-baiting and list-making were meant for each other.

Because people care more about their relative standing in an environment, than they do about their absolute standing.

Remember the Z-List? How about the controversy that surrounded the W-List on this blog and many others? Did I step on it for that one. On the 100 PR people to follow on Twitter list, I'll remind you of my follow-up post about the reactions.

If I tell you your work is great, you are producing super useful material, etc. you may like it, and me, as a result, a little bit, maybe. What if I told you your work is better than — and listed four peers in the industry? Now, I'm talking! Right? You just might be my best buddy all of a sudden. Right.

In 1958, economist John Kenneth Galbraith argued that many consumer demands arise not from innate needs, but from social pressures. He also believed that America must transition from a private production economy to a public investment economy.

It sounds to me like we need to start making more lists, creating transparency and openness about who is contributing to what relative to their counterparts or peers. Would that generate more entitled self-interest, though? I digress…

Think about the important lists in your life, where you hoped to make it in, in random order:

  • sports teams
  • the group you looked up to in high school
  • college admission
  • college graduation
  • jobs and promotions
  • prestigious zip code
  • … and so on

Making the list compared to your peers meant the difference between success and failure in your mind. And although there are more than 25 ways to fail and come up on top, fear of failure compared to others in the profession, neighborhood, family, community, is a great motivator to get you working extra.

So you can climb on top of that list.

There is comparison and ranking when it comes to appearance and sex appeal. I bet you, you'd prefer to be the best looking in a place with small pickings, than a better looking self facing gorgeous people. This is an even stronger desire than that for economic advantage. There are studies about this topic.

Let's hit pause for a moment here. Because something interesting happens when you try to fix or game the list. When there is no apparent reason why someone is ahead of you on a list, or why they would be on the list at all, things are not that happy.

The posts and lists I shared with you up top on this post — they were all in some part subjective and qualitative. Aside from choosing an alpha order for the 100 PR people, they also don't have any particular order.  Two of the lists, the Z- and W-, sought to include as many people as possible/available to continue spreading the list.

What happened in both cases?

  • For the Z-List, once Seth Godin put it in Squidoo, people started asking their contacts to vote them up.
  • For the W-List, there was a heated discussion across blogs of why it wasn't a good idea to separate women like that, why other organizations owned the women-sphere, even though no attemps were made to ever connect with me from those organizations.

You can see what happened from publishing the third list in my follow up post. However, everyone agrees that certain quantifiable key performance indicators (KPIs) make the AdAge Power150 fair. Things like traffic volume, number of comments, etc. I must be mellowing with time (see link in this paragraph).

Do higher KPIs signal higher conversions? Take your time on this one, and bring proof.

Should you make a list of your best customers and publish it? I can hardly think of any company that would do that publicly, lest their competitors get wind of it.

Does transparency, a term so touted in social networks, hurt or aid influence? What's your take? The comments are yours.


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