Something bizarre is happening in the world of Social Media. People, en masse, are doing something that people in “real life” don’t do enough (in my opinion). They are reflecting upon the big questions. “What am I doing here?” “What is this all about, anyway?”
One of the more common threads of conversation I’ve seen over the last couple of weeks is “What does influence mean?” This question has been approached from multitudinous angles. Chris Brogan has written about the relationship between his influence, his community, and affiliate marketing. Maya Paveza wrote a post just today about how we socialize and use the web for business. On the complete other end of the spectrum, Mitch Joel wrote a post a couple of days ago about how Social Media, and wondering if we’re influential, might just be a sign of narcissism. Meanwhile, last night during #Techchat, an “influencer” was defined as someone who receives incentives for support a product, brand, service, or company – someone who is paid to influence what people buy.
What are we really asking?
Why is influence suddenly on the minds of so many people? Is there a looming jealousy as a certain category of people in Social Media are labels as “influencers?” Are we asking if we are important? Are we asking if we would hear a fly buz when we die (Or delete our accounts)? I’m not really sure I *want* to be influential. I don’t know what that really means or entails in this context. I know that my ultimate goal in life is to be able to do good for the world, so if I could be influential in getting people to help me help people, that would be a dream come true. Somehow, I don’t think that’s what the Fast Company “influence project” was about, though.
Do you strive to be influential? What does that mean to you?
Influential in business terms
I think, after participating in some of these conversations and listening to others, that maybe what people really want to know is “Am I successful?” That’s a little bit less nebulous, right? I mean if you are using Social Media to make money via affiliate marketing on your blog, it’s easy to tell if you are successful. If you are using Social Media to grow your business, there are tons of ways to tell if you’re successful. If people retweet you on Twitter when you say the sky is blue, or if people like your status on Facebook when you say you like blueberries, maybe that’s a measure of success for you.
There’s one thing I know for certain, however. Whether you are trying to be influential, successful, popular, or whether you’re just a Social Media narcissist, you aren’t going to get very far if you don’t have people around you, with you, in your network.
Inclusion as the pathway to influence
There’s another “I” word, aside from, well, “I,” and “influence,” that doesn’t get nearly enough attention. Inclusion.
Inclusion may be the real key to success in the 21st century. Whether you’re out for yourself or for a company, your ability to be inclusive — of people, of ideas, of efforts — is what will pave your path with ragged roots or rose petals. Here are some reasons why I’ve come to this conclusion – feel free to retweet any concept you like.
Including your sales force in customer service training influences both departments to work together for the customer.
Including the C-Suite in the planning process influences them to sign off and assist.
Including a mix of old and new media influences multiple layers of your demographic to learn your brand.
Including others in your Tweets influences them to view you as a community member.
The list goes on.
You can’t be influential if you have no one to influence. You can’t succeed in affiliate marketing if you haven’t built a community. It’s just not feasible.
The “Influencers” get this
A conversation that has been going on in parallel with the influence conversation is “Ew, influencers. Experts. We think they smell bad.” This has really been bothering me and I haven’t really been able to put my finger on why, aside from the fact that I truly like and admire a lot of the people being referenced. But I realize now that the reason this thought process bothers me is that those stinky “experts” or “influencers” got to that point in part because they ARE inclusive. They include people through their blogs, through promotion, through assistance, and through their work. People who are trying to build influence via mass emails, spammy links, or begging and pleading are not going to win the game, ultimately, or if they do, the victory dance will have to be swift. People who are mad that they aren’t influential may not understand what’s missing. They might have 5,000 followers and 750,000 Facebook fans. But if you are not inclusive, those are just faceless numbers. They won’t be there for you. And believe me, you’re just a number to them.
Take a look at some of those “egotistical” influencers. How do they interact with people? How do they frame out their blogs and webinars and talks? They bring you in. They allow you to feel included in their community. That’s not an accident. That’s the key to the whole magical treasure chest of “influence” and success today.
What do you think?
1st Image credit: http://www.sxc.hu/profile/Rotorhead
2nd Image by Petr Vins. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/wetape