Once upon a time, on a small undiscovered island in the mid pacific ocean, one caveman grunted at another caveman. Soon a few cavemen joined together and started grunting at each other, but every time that the first caveman grunted, everyone else paid attention.
To this small group of cavemen, the first grunter was the most influential caveman in the world. He yielded lots of social influence. But while everyone respected him, they served the man with the biggest knife. Thus was life in their fishbowl.
Little did they know, just a few hundred miles away, deep undersea tubes were carrying fiber optic cables around the world, enabling the spread of information at blinding speed. And to many of the homes and offices connected to this network, Seth Godin was the most influential man in the world. But while Seth was the man they looked up to, they generally followed the directions given by their bosses and clients. Because bosses and clients pay the bills. Such is often life in the digital fishbowl.
And while all of those connected homes and offices were admiring their influence and this little world they had created, the world continued to spin all around them. Millions more watched American Idol, oblivious to both the cavemen and Seth Godin. Still millions more suffered the fear, genocide and oppression of life in a third world country, nearly all of them oblivious to the cavemen, Seth Godin, American Idol and even Twitter! Is all of life a fishbowl?
Was the first caveman a successful communicator? Is Seth any less so? Is Ryan Seacrest?
Communications success is not one size fits all. Success is about your results based on your goals. Life is not about your followers, your "twinfluence" or your reach. Life is about the journey, those we encounter along the way and the meaning of those encounters. But in today's multi-platform world, we cannot measure influence by a single platform alone.
So the next time you hear someone speak about the latest twitter influence grader, blog metric or ratings numbers, ask yourself: is this the measure of my success, or a rough representation of someone else's? Does the temperature of the water in my fishbowl determine the traffic intensity on the local highway? Is my influence real?
Isn't influence relative?