Please stop worrying about your Klout score, or your stock price on Empire Avenue and on all kinds of other measures that don’t have much to do with anything related to your real world. This is akin to still being in the Matrix, but thinking you have free will. Worrying about whether or not you’re an influencer by someone else’s measures is like having a toy steering wheel and thinking you’re driving the car.
One definition: The capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.
If you just pause for a moment and re-read that last sentence, it’s really worth it.
Now, contrast that with how many people tweet you or don’t, who posts links to your stuff or who doesn’t, whether such and such replies to you or doesn’t, and tell me that online influence has a lot to do with real world influence. No matter how much I’d like to believe that telling you how much I love my Chevy Camaro will influence you to buy cars, it won’t. (And if it did, I’d want a cut.) It just doesn’t work that way. You might have a slightly better opinion of something because I say it’s interesting or great or whatever, but I rarely influence someone to take an action of that nature.
However, most online scoring systems would suggest that I have the potential to influence that kind of change.
Where Influence Comes From
There are a few ingredients to influence:
- Outward signs of success.
- Earned social capital.
- Persuasive nature/demeanor.
- Perception of power.
- Sheer volume.
Those are just a few. Of these, which do you think I possess the most of at any given time? Maybe a bit of the first, definitely some of the second, and definitely some of the last. I don’t make efforts to be persuasive. I don’t have much power. What I have, however, is a lot of social capital that I can exchange to make new and useful relationships, which then yield some kind of value for me, and hopefully, for the person with whom I’m connecting.
And in that way, I have influence, but I earned it by making good/useful relationships and by connecting with people perceived to be above my level of influence and by nurturing relationships with people at my peer level and with people working on developing their own influence. (And of these, I’d say the latter is the most important of the groups to pursue and build up.)
Pick Your Influence
Maybe you don’t have sheer volume, but you’re persuasive. Great. Use it. Maybe you’ve not yet earned the social capital from the people “above” (and I use that loosely) you, but you’ve built out a strong network of supportive up-and-comers and peers. Perfect! The point is that the formula for influence has precious little to do with a few statistical data points and everything to do with understanding leverage.
Use Your Powers For Good
Where I see people throw away their ability to be influential is often at the same point: the moment they use it for strictly personal gain. Note, I don’t mean that it’s bad to sell. Selling isn’t strictly about personal gain (if done appropriately). It’s about delivering something of value to someone with a need.
When people use influence for something personal is when they try to influence frivolous votes, when they ask people to pump them up in relationship to something, when they use their leverage to try and climb upward and meet others through connections, without having earned the introduction. There are many other examples, and I know at this very moment that YOU are nodding your head and remembering the time when someone asked you to do something like that.
The best way to grow your influence from where it is to where you hope it will be is to use your influence as often as possible to help someone that could use that help for something of relative good. For instance, I often ask my Twitter followers to support causes like Skip1, but I never ask for votes. (Or if I have, it’s pretty darned rare.) Why? Because it just seems like a jerky way to use influence.
Marketers are trying very desperately to figure out how to use social networks to affect sales. Most often, they’re seeking the Holy Grail of someone influential. They equate numbers with influence: number of followers, number of views, number of likes, etc. Great, except that likes don’t equate to influence, either. You and I both know that.
Yes, there’s a way to use influence for marketing, but it’s much more to do with understanding the above leverage points than it is to understand how many shares something got on Google+. And if YOU figure out how to build that leverage, and if that matters to you in marketing your products, or in helping others succeed, then I feel you’ll be further ahead than folks who are worried about stats and scores kept by web companies who stand to benefit from measuring those same scores and reporting on them.