06/28/2011 08:02 EDT | Updated 08/28/2011 05:12 EDT

The New Media Pecking Order

There's a new measurement in town, and it's all about how relevant and influential you are -- as an individual.

This past Sunday, the New York Times' "Sunday Review" ran an opinion piece called, "Got Twitter, You've Been Scored," by Stephanie Rosenbloom that looked at the emerging trend of brands using social media analytics platforms like Klout, PeerIndex and Twitter Grader to see how "influential" individuals are. The output of this social media meets popularity contest has many people's panties in a knot.

"It seems so unfair that certain individuals are being offered free upgrades in hotels or free promotional flights just because they have a lot of Twitter followers"...  That's the growing concern you'll hear from those who don't have a significant following on Twitter (the ones that do, don't seem to be complaining too much about all of this new-found attention while they're being fawned over). It may sound snarky, but it's true.   

It's always about the numbers. It always has been. 

Here's some framework for you: I spent close to 15 years in the music industry. Along with that, I spend more time than I care to admit on airplanes. Those worlds never collided... until recently. Like most people, I buy a cheaper flight and if things need to be changed, I approach the customer service staff at the gate with a smile and hope that I won't be charged the price of a small condo in Florida to make a flight change. I've had mixed results. Sometimes, the staff will take pity on me, but more often than not, I'm told that my flight fare doesn't offer me the luxury of changing.

Recently, I was traveling with a well known singer from a rock band (we're still friends). We got to the airport and realized that there was an earlier flight. I approached the gate and asked for a flight change: no luck. The singer approach the gate and the two attendants lit up and changed both of our flights with a smile (and upgrade).

Newsflash: the world is one big pecking order. 

My friend -- the rock star -- travels infrequently by plane. I'm a loyal customer of the airline. It doesn't seem fare and it doesn't make sense. C'est la vie. Klout, PeerIndex, Twitter Grader and others simply bring to light something we've all known for a very long time: it's always been about the numbers and who we all -- individually -- influence... now we're just starting to see where we all sit. Pushing this further, if everyone has their own media channel (because of our own, individual Twitter feeds, Facebook friends, personal Blogs, etc...) that are published for the world to see, why shouldn't they be subject to the same public rating systems and reviews that traditional media channels have to endure?

It's actually quite humbling.

Advertising Age has a digital platform called, Power 150, that ranks all of the marketing blogs in the world. On any given day, I'll rank somewhere between #20 to #30. Is it perfectly accurate? Who knows. It's humbling to know that I rank so highly, but even more humbling to know how far I have to go to crack the top 10. I can think that my blog, Six Pixels of Separation, is as good as they come for marketers, but the public nature of my ranking is both a slap in the face and a pat on the back depending on my level of humility and how I'm feeling on any given day. And yes, the same can be said for your Twitter account and how many people (or which people) like your brand on Facebook.

Whether we like these new tools of measuring influence or even if we grapple with the true definition of what an influencer is, this is going to be an increasingly powerful way for brands and individuals to better understand who they're connected to and what those groups of people do.

Mitch Joel is president of Twist Image -- an award-winning digital marketing agency. His first book, Six Pixels of Separation, named after his highly-successful blog and podcast of the same name is a business and marketing bestseller.