Back in 2000, Ed Harris produced and acted in a movie called Pollock, which, per the name, told the story of artist Jackson Pollock or “Jack the Dripper.” I don’t remember a whole lot about the movie – it was pretty depressing, if you must know – but there is one scene that has always stuck in my head. Despite all of his neuroses, Pollock eventually found not only fame and success but also several people who cared for him and supported him with devotion. There is a scene in the movie where Pollock is in a gallery, surrounded by admirers, and all of a sudden he looks up and over to his wife, who stood by him even when things weren’t going well. He nods to her. Then he goes back to his conversation. It’s extremely understated, and if you had been in the scene you probably would not even have known it had happened.
I think this is how true influence is really measured.
There are all sorts of ways to give a nod to a person. You can do it physically, of course, like in that scene. You can tell someone that they really helped you out or opened your eyes to a new perspective (that’s quite a direct way to go about it). In the online world, the “mention” is the thing. Unfortunately, a lot of ways I used to give the nod to people online have become shrouded in yuckiness. For example, I used to really like making lists highlighting people for various reasons, but now there are so many lists and so many lists that are clearly just link bait that the effort seems cheapened somehow. The same holds true for “Follow Friday” on Twitter. So many people just list a dozen names that the actual feeling behind the nod is kind of lost. That’s too bad. I think if it were easier to give meaningful nods, there might not be so much confusion about who the “influencers” are.
To me, influence is not always something you can pinpoint. Have you ever watched the movie Hugo? Hugo influences an older man he barely knows and doesn’t like. It ends up benefitting both of them in the end, but it all happens in indirect, serendipitous ways. Hugo gets a nod (not to spoil too much), though not by name. In a lot of ways, it’s like the scene from Pollock. Understated yet powerful.
In my two years in the online world, and in my 30-some years of life on this earth, I’ve been influenced by countless people, from my parents to my high school speech team coach to my driving instructor, the lovely Wally. I’ve been influenced in ways that cannot be measured by things like retweets and “conversations.” I’ve been influenced to try or not try new things. I’ve been influenced to change my perspective or to develop a new opinion. I’ve been influenced to take part in a cause or in an effort. Giving a nod to all who have influenced me would be great neck exercise. But quantifying this influence? I’d never be able to do it. I wouldn’t know where to start. What is the value of believing you can do something? What is the value of accomplishing something you were afraid to even try?
Do not aim for the Klout Score, the Ad Age Power 150, the PeerIndex score, or that Kred number. Aim for something more valuable and less tangible. Aim for the nod.
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/adaphobic/3803313418/ via Creative Commons