Influential is one thing.

Popular is another.

Damon Cortesi inspired this post with his tweet

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Influential is having or exerting influence others around you.  Influential individuals are able to catalyze change.  They are able to impact the course of events.  Influential individuals can alter the path other people are taking and choices they make.

Popularity is not influential.

Being popular is to be regarded with favor.  To be looked on with affection from many people.  Being popular means everyone wants to be your friend.  Being popular is to appeal to the masses.

It is easy to get confused between the two.  Especially in an age of “Twilebrity”.

Being popular in social media is a completely different thing from being influential.

Being influential and being popular can look the same.  Both get a great number of followers/fans/friends.  Both get a great deal of RT’s and reposts.  Both get mentioned a lot.

But let’s take a step back here.  Let’s remember the substantial difference between influential and popular.  Being popular means a lot of people like you.  Being influential means you have the power to exert influence over others and make change.

It really comes down to quantity vs quality.  You are Ashton Kutcher.  You are popular because you have seventy bajillion followers.  You are the hot girl in the class that everyone wants to be seen with or take under the bleachers.  Or.  You are Chris Brogan and you have 115K+ followers.  People respect you.  You are looked at as a thought leader in the space.  Your ideas have merit within the community.

Being influential is not the same as being popular.  Let us not forget this.  Let us not get carried away with numbers (of followers) and concentrate rather our energy on the value we can add to the community.  Let us please keep the popularity pageants and cafeteria squabbles over who gets to sit next to who away from the industry.

If this industry is to mature into something worthy of respect the differentiation between popularity and influence needs to be kept in the forefront of our minds.  Otherwise, we will simply begin to eat our young during catty displays’ of sophomoric insanity.

So my question to the community is this:  With the many similarities between influential and popular individuals, what are the characteristics that help you filter and define these people in your streams? Or…do you care?