The term “influence” doesn’t mean a lot, and yet, it seems to be the holy grail for online social media people. Marketers coming to the fold worry quite a deal about reaching the influencers. The dogma, such as it is, says that anybody can be an influencer. Only, you and I know that we all feel like a nobody sometimes, and that we’re not all influential about the same things.
For instance, I trusted Mark Horvath to share good advice on the cameras he uses for his projects, and that’s why I bought my Canon Vixia HF S200: because Mark said It was a good one. Mark was/is much more influential to my choice than someone with 200,000 followers on Twitter (or similar). He certainly has more influence to me than most ads, because I know Mark’s a real guy that I know and have met.
Klout says this about my influence:
When I look for analysis, I get this:
- Chris Brogan has built a very large and engaged network through high quality, trustworthy content.
- Chris Brogan is very likely to have any message amplified and acted upon.
- Chris Brogan is constantly engaged by very influential people.
- Chris Brogan creates quality content that engages a very large audience on a level very few can achieve.
But what does that all mean? Or a better question: Can we improve our influence? Here are some thoughts.
It Starts With a Solid Platform
I should be clear. I never set out to be influential. I set out to be helpful. That word, “helpful,” turns out to be ONE way out of several to be influential. Rich people often get to be influential, because money gives people improved reach, and improved options for decision-making. Because I didn’t have a ton of money, I ended up finding ways to be helpful instead. And I put that helpfulness right out there to be seen on my website, my home base. Over and over, I gave more than anyone I knew, and I gave away my “secrets,” so that you could do it, too. But it wouldn’t matter one bit without the next step.
The next step of influence is awareness.
I joke with Steve Garfield all the time about his awesome book, Get Seen. I ask him, “How do you get seen?” And Steve answers, “Be there.”
That’s the secret. Be there. I had accounts on every social network early. (I’m in the first 11K to join Twitter.) And when I got there, I connected, communicated, and offered help. But we’ll get back to that. First? I was there. And I was active. And I was not just active, but I shared the spotlight.
I did the same thing in real space. I’m one of the rare social media types who’s actually met several thousand of the people he’s connected with online. And I’ve met quite the mix of influential people and up-and-comers. (Know where the real gain comes from? Spend time with the up-and-comers.)
So, I started with a platform, and then I showed up everywhere I could afford (and sometimes not afford) to go. But what did I do once I got there?
Share the Spotlight
One thing that helps one become influential is to work on helping others rise up. The more people you can support and help, the more people who will remember where they got that help, and who will extend some level of your influence, whether or not they choose to do so. I promote others far more often than I ever talk about my own accomplishments. Why? Because you didn’t come here to learn about me. You came here to improve your own efforts. I share as much as I can about other people, so that you understand what will give you the best chance to improve.
Sometimes, I talk about people like Tony Robbins, who I think has given us lots to learn. I talk about Tom Peters, a mentor of mine for decades, who continues to really light my mind up with new ideas, and as I tell him at every opportunity I get, who continues to get me in trouble, all these many years later.
Other times, I talk about aGlenda Watson Hyatt, who is helping bloggers and businesses figure out accessibility and helping them grow a market segment that we all are missing our chance to help. I point out Suzanne Vara, who is one of the most loyal, most energized, most dedicated person I’ve met. To me, there’s great value in what Glenda and Suzanne show you, and I’d rather you get to know them better.
Sharing the spotlight in this way, though, improves your influence. How? It shows people (you!) what I value, and it suggests that I’ll be quick to point you out when someone else needs what you offer.
Working The Numbers of Influence
I work really hard to get my RSS subscribers. I ask for more whenever I can. I also ask people to subscribe to my newsletter. I don’t work as hard on getting followers on Twitter. Instead, I work really hard on being relevant and useful and funny and quirky and worthwhile. I work on promoting other people and sharing what they’ve found. Why? Because I think that’s how to get numbers there. (Want more Twitter followers? Get More Twitter Followers today!)
I look at my stats via Google Analytics, via PostRank, via HootSuite, and from other sources, to see what works for me, what doesn’t. I work those numbers. I don’t just let them show up magically. I’m not using HubSpot on this site, but in future projects, that might be another way for me to improve my numbers and measurement, as well.
Influence Isn’t Handed Over
No one passes out influence. Yes, sometimes, someone very influential will tap you and you can benefit from this, but that’s rare. No one came and tapped my shoulder. And yet, I did something with each and every opportunity I was handed.
When I worked with Jeff Pulver, I worked hard to help his efforts, and I also did what I could to meet the people he put in front of me. I listened hard to his every lesson, and I learned from observing the kinds of people he spent his time with, who he gave his attention to, and where he put emphasis. Every step of the way, I gained influence.
Before Jeff, I worked on influence by learning things. Christopher S. Penn and I figured out how to run PodCamp, and we learned from that how to build networked relationships with important people in the podcasting and new media space.
After Jeff, I learned how to leverage every new opportunity I got into a chance to help someone else, a chance to promote someone else, and/or an opportunity to grow my business. Never once did someone hand me more influence. I earned it.
That’s the Silver Lining To This All
Don’t work on your Klout score. Work on understanding influence. Don’t work on how many followers you have, except insofar as you worry about how to feed them useful information that will grow your reach.
Do work on learning how to be most helpful to those in your segment of the universe that are growing. Do work on putting more resources in the hands of people who need to grow. Do work on never missing an opportunity to take a privilege and to extend it into something more than what you started with. And say thank-you a thousand times more than you are today.
And that, friends, is some of what I know about influence.