Can you remember the winner of TIME magazine’s Most Influential Person poll in 2009?
Was it Barack Obama? Oprah Winfrey? The Dalai Lama?fair
No, it was Moot, the pseudonym of 21-year-old Christopher Poole, a college student and founder of online community 4chan.org.
Not only was the “most influential person in the world”, according to TIME, largely unheard of (and still is) but so were many of the remainder of the top 21, whose first initials not-so-coincidentally spelled the words ‘MARBLE CAKE ALSO THE GAME‘.
4chan.org, if you’ve never heard of it, is a bare-bones, reliably profane image board whose users have hatched everything from Rickrolling to LOLcats. It’s perhaps influential among college students but was its founder worthy of this TIME accolade?
This is a question that even TIME seemed uncomfortable answering in 2009.
TIME.com managing editor Josh Tyrangiel said that moot is no less deserving than previous title holders. “I would remind anyone who doubts the results that this is an Internet poll,” he says. “Doubting the results is kind of the point.”
So, how did Moot win?
The simple answer is that 4chan.org used its far reaching network to manipulate the voting process. The technicalities of this precision hack can be found elsewhere.
So, why the long winded introduction to this year’s Cool Company Awards Readers’ Choice Award?
Did we get gamed?
Let’s be frank. Readers’ Choice Awards are usually conducted for two reasons.
The first is to provide readers with a voice. This is obviously a good thing. It takes the decision making process away from a few and gives it to many.
The second is to raise awareness. In our world, that could also be interpreted to mean ‘get more traffic’.
As such, we acknowledge that many award programs often end up becoming (for want of a better description) media sanctioned popularity contests. And with acknowledgement comes acceptance.
So, rather than rail against this hard fact (Oh, the inequity!), many years ago we decided to ignore our internal cynics (the ones in our brains, not just the ones in our office) and reward voters according to the effort they put in to reach their own networks.
That’s right, we empowered our entrants to promote the awards for us.
How did the voting work?
The Cool Company Awards Readers’ Choice gave Anthill readers the opportunity to vote on Cool Company Award finalists in one of several ways:
1. Tweet this post:
Use the Tweet button at the top of this page. Your tweet will say:
Congratulations [Name], Anthill 2010 Cool Company finalist!
2. Trigger a spcial media reaction: Hit “Like” or “Google+”, Disqus “Like”.
3. Leave a comment: Show your support! Share the love!
This seemed fare. And, to state the obvious, if success is built on marketing flair (even partially), ranking highly in the Readers’ Choice should bode well for the ‘cool’ company.
So, how did participants rank?
Below is a summary of our performers.
|Big Kahuna Imagineering||4||1||0||0||0||5|
|LX Design House||2||0||0||0||0||2|
Notice anything weird?
It’s pretty common for the top two to generate more social media interactions than the remainders combined.
At least, that is what has happened in previous years.
One or two companies will usually have strong and established networks. They will have created a remarkable product (hence their slot in the ‘Cools’) and their customers, clients, family, friends and fans are more than happy to show their love.
But this year’s leadership ladder tells a slightly different story.
Our leader generated an outcome roughly five times the social media interactions generated by the entire list.
For those of us able to monitor the process, the astonishing outcome appeared to happen in a matter of days, skyrocketing this one organisation’s Like count seemingly at the push of a button.
Of course, we suspect, that is exactly what happened.
What is LeadBolt?
In less than two years, LeadBolt has become a world leader in website monetisation services via a method called content unlocking.
In essence, site users encounter a screen that makes an enticing offer; the user must engage and react to the offer in order to continue seeing the site content.
LeadBolt says ads powered by its network are generating click-through rates more than 60 times above industry benchmarks and that, on mobile, its engagement layers are pushing publishers’ earnings 100 times higher than industry benchmarks.
The company, founded in mid-2010 by president and CEO Dale Carr and headquartered in Sydney, deployed its export arms early, moving into the U.S. and Asia in July 2010, Latin America in September 2010 and Europe and the UK in January.
Today, it serves hundreds of millions of ad in nearly 200 countries.
Advertisers include Burger King, Pepsi, Walmart, Coca-Cola and Groupon.
It’s a powerful business model and an Australian digital success srory.
But, to summarise and to (perhaps unfairly) simplify the model for today’s purposes, LeadBolt’s business is built to help monetise blogs… by selling Likes.
And what about Starlettos?
It’s part of the Anthill culture to root for the underdog.
In fact, the Cool Company Awards were, in part, developed to identify up-and-comers — businesses with unique business models, powered by innovation. All our contenders for the Cools fit this mould. (It’s the Cool Company Awards, after all — not the richest-business-in-Austraila-deadly-serious-and-humourless awards.)
And, as a fly on the wall, it was plain to see how much effort Starlettos — namely its founders, Mark Naismith-Beeley and Ilde Naismith-Beeley — put into mobilising their masses to achieve an outcome almost five times their nearest competitor (a digital marketing agency too, I might add).
Who would have thought that a small piece of plastic that could prevent high heels from sinking into grass could be so popular? (But I concede that I’m probably not the target market.)
This created a crisis of concience at Anthill HQ.
While LeadBolt is the clear Readers’ Choice winner in terms of ‘votes’, should we not acknolwedge the efforts of others who actively mobilised ‘fans’ and new Anthill readers?
Who do you think should win?
In the spirit of typical Anthillian rule-breaking behaviour, we have decided to ask you, dear readers, for one final vote. Who should win? LeadBolt or Starlettos?
And if you think this turn of events is unfair (or if you ardently support it), leave your rant as a comment below. Now vote. Use the widget below. Click and you’re done.
THIS POLL (INC. COMMENTS) IS NOW CLOSED: To watch the ‘smashing’ finale to this debate, click here and watch the video.