02/15/2011 01:37 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

In Social Media, "Judy Consumer" Can Beat Britney Spears in the Influence Game

I don't have any illusions as to the extent of the influence average consumers would have versus any D-list celebrity -- much less the one and only Britney. In the "real world", the glamour celebs live in a bubble of influence, privilege and media management that touches the life of "Judy Consumer" insidiously and consistently.

The question that rises before us therefore is what is the result of their influence? Is it an influence that promotes positive outcomes, or does their influence actually do more harm than good? The answer unfortunately is that more often than not, celebrity influence is not a positive force for average "Judy Consumer." The images of beauty and power of the likes of Britney often distort "Judy Consumer's" self-image, as she cannot possibly compete with the retouched, remixed version of the celeb that is packaged up for us to see. Worse, the "star" set presents a problematic role model for the daughters of Judy Consumer. These celebrities fill our daughters' heads with wrong-headed stories about how success today means getting on American Idol or having a career as a model.

More and more Judy Consumer despairs at the example set by these high flying stars and she worries about how she can balance out their distorted influence on her family.

Enter social media.

At first social media was used by the entertainment elite to promote themselves. Now though, more and more, social media is being used by "Judy Consumer" to promote the creativity and influence of other Judy Consumers she encounters in her digital community. In the new realm of social media influence, what counts is brains and imagination which lets Judy Consumer go "toe to toe" with the best of the famous. And in social media, these "Judy Consumer" superstars are getting noticed!

Enter the Shorty Awards.

The Shorty Awards is kind of like the Oscars for social media folks. Begun a few years ago, it has quickly emerged as the hyper cool award for anyone using social media. True to its social media roots, this is a community based award program where anyone can create a category and nominate anyone they think uses social media in interesting ways. This relative newbie to the awards circuit garnered an impressive 100,000 viewers via Livestream and YouTube at last year's ceremony.

This year, there are 30 official award categories, representative of its diverse community roots. According to Greg Galant, CEO of Sawhorse Media, and one of the organizers of the Shorty Awards:

The Shorty Awards nomination process is the largest crowd sourcing effort on Twitter. With just a tweet, anyone can nominate anyone else for any category -- and make their own category. So far this year over half a million tweeted nominations have been made.

Yet there's something far more interesting going on. On the one hand, it has all the award panache of any cool awards program but here, the "A list" people at the top of the list, in most cases and in most categories, are real people beating the elite set regularly.

Yup -- just look at this "Judy Consumer" (a.k.a. me). About a week ago a friend emailed me: "OMG Judy you are beating Britney" because I was 15th in the "Innovation" category, which was good enough to beat Britney. What's more exciting is that all the 14 people ahead of me were all "regular" folks too -- not a mega-celeb in the batch!

Not bad for a bunch of Judy and Joe Consumers -- now is it?