Influencer of the Week: The Wikipedia Blackout

Wikipedia went dark for a day and illuminated the world on how to influence boldly in the 21st century.

The site's massive one-day protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) stopped something, alright. It stopped the Hollywood-inspired bill in its tracks. The political sponsors quickly turned tail after a tribe of Wikipedia-influenced constituents weighed in. In Wikipedia's words, its supporters "shut down Congress's switchboards and melted their servers." According to the website, 162 million sets of eyeballs viewed the protest page. Within hours, the dominoes started tumbling. One by one, senators and representatives announced their newfound opposition to the bill. Even the bill's co-sponsor renounced his SOPA support.

The world's fifth most popular website deserves a victory lap for beating Hollywood at its own game.

Wikipedia successfully influenced the issue because it connected with its tribes' value of free knowledge, conveyed a cautionary tale about a world void of free material, and convinced its followers to take a specific step.

Ironically, the tech wonks created an effective new form of lobbying against the traditional lobbyists and storytellers -- the very media companies who make their livelihood bringing compelling stories to your screens. Go figure. Hollywood got beat at its own game. And by geeks, no less.

Here are 5 lessons learned on how to influence successfully:

  • Resonate with your audience's values
  • Be bold in your approach
  • Share a compelling story
  • Simplify to amplify your message
  • Transfer ownership of the idea to your tribe

If traditional media wants some revised form of the SOPA or PIPA (Protect IP Act) bills to become law, they must now transform the language significantly. But first, it would be wise to transform the way they attempt to influence the world. Otherwise, old school is at risk of getting schooled by the techies again.