Map Making and HR Online Social Influence

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Amerigo VespucciI was once told that Laurie Ruettimann should be at the top of every influencer list. How can I disagree? She is pretty fabulous. And a list came out that just named her the number 3 most awesome blogger in the universe. How fabulous!

Except it’s not.

With heavy heart, I traveled all the way to TruLondon in February and told the author of the aforementioned influencer post — and founder of HR Examiner — that his site’s lists are bullshit.

I said it respectfully, of course, and with tremendous deference to a very smart man who knows a thing or two about HR technology. I believe that “lists” of any kind that rank people in order of importance are meant to do two things: define the market for commercial purposes and lend a level of importance to the list-maker himself.

This gentleman responded very thoughtfully and said, “You don’t come to London without a map, do you?”

Hm. So true. But I made two points.

  • It’s disingenuous to pretend that modern-day cartographers don’t have a commercial interest in representing and defining a map of the city. When you exclude your professional and private interests from the map, you tell an incomplete story and send people on a journey that may not benefit them.
  • Who are any of us to make a map? I realize that we’re all modern-day Amerigo Vespucci‘s in this new world of social media; however, if you’re going to make a map, you better know the difference between a fountain at Trafalgar Square and a hole in your ass.

Not many of us know the difference.

And I’d like to make one other point.

Unfortunately, the HR Examiner lists are shared and circulated by very wonderful people who are happy to be included. And the website is indexed by Google. And some of my good friends who work in Executive HR and Talent Management try to find consultants and thought leaders and stumble upon these lists. They call me and ask, “Who the hell are these people? Why is there a blog called HR Rooster? The Talent Management BBQ Shack? What the hell is this? Some of these people don’t even do HR.”

Aw man, I know. I’m sorry. I have to say, “These lists actually show how little we know about the true power players and influencers in HR. Just keep walking. Nothing to see here. Call your friends at McKinsey and get a real consultant.”

Again, this is not to take away from anyone who is mentioned on any list. I work in Human Resources and I want everyone to feel special and loved. This is why I publish an ultimate guide to HR and career bloggers. I like a good party and I want everyone to feel recognized and rewarded. I only exclude people who are assholes — and not even all of them. There are men and women on my  guides who have been total jackwads to me. I feel sorry for them. I put them on my list.

And the founder of HR Examiner is a super fella and a great human being. I’m 100% sure he would give me a kidney if I needed it. I don’t begrudge the effort in trying to quantify influence, either, which is why I’m quite intrigued with a tool called Social Ears. You have to pay money to have access to the list. It’s not a false academic exercise. They are selling a product and a service. And the intentions are clear.

I do think the founder of HR Examiner’s heart is in the right place — but there is no credible activist speaking up to challenge the validity, authenticity or purpose of compiling a ranked list. Do we need these public lists? Are these efforts valuable? What good — if any — does this serve? Are we harming and stifling the online HR community by indulging in these ego-driven circle jerks?

I dunno. Somebody find me a credible activist.

And when I look back at my own inclusion on these lists — wherever I fall — it feels like amateur hour to me. That being said, all of social media and blogging is amateur hour. That’s why it’s free. You want quality service and informed opinions on influence? You have to pay for it. And if you can’t budget for strong consulting services — or if you underfund your strategic HR initiatives and rely upon the internet to lead you to reasonable conclusions — you get what you pay for.

Buyer beware. Avoid those lists. Especially the ones where I’m on top.

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