Influence gives you a megaphoneInfluence is an interesting thing. You can shape behavior when you make a recommendation. In some places, age gave one influence. Sometimes social status (financial and/or class) bestowed A automatic must-listen environment.  A carefully built reputation of solid results could give you a megaphone. I still remember the old E. F. Hutton ad, “When E.F . Hutton talks, people listen.”

The effect social media has had on how one builds and maintains influence is simply tremendous. Small to big businesses are trying to figure out how to get influencea and how to use it. So, influence is greatly sought after and is probably one of the least understood aspects of how one is perceived online. We try to measure our influence by the numbers of followers (or friends or connections) or with sites like Klout. But is this it? Does this define all of our influence?

Influence has been a topic of recent conversation due to events like Fast Company “The Influencer Project”. Between Valeria Maltoni (@ConversationAge as well as founder and co-host of #kaizenblog) and myself, we have read a number of posts about influence. I guess you could say we’re influenced by our friends and colleagues as we read a lot of different blogs. For framing posts, Valeria wrote “Connecting With Real Influence” and “Like It Or Not, You Want Influence”. When I tweeted an invitation to my friend, Danny (@DannyBrown) to chime in on this topic, he pointed me towards a post by Susan Murphy (@SuzeMuse) which really fit into our theme like a glove, “Why Are We So Hung Up On Influence?” We did notice that this was a topic people had a lot of thoughts and opinions about as we had 627 tweets and 81 contributors by the end of the conversation. Here is the transcript: Transcript for #kaizenblog – Influence

With the stage set, we began talking about “What Defines Influence in Business” in our latest #kaizenblog chat with our first question, What is deeper purpose of influence? While there were some answers, there were also a lot of questions that referenced popularity, targeting an audience, and how our numbers do play a role.

  • Sean Williams (@CommAMMO) “Q1 Influence is the ability to gain a hearing for your perspectives, when then changes someone’s thinking or actions.”
  • Stephen Denny (@Note_To_CMO) “A1 Deeper purpose of influence? Compliance? (Cynical?)  We want influence so we can direct the actions of others?”
  • Caroline Di Diego (@CASUDI) “A1 Influence bringing about action cos people are inspired to do it ~ (not forced to)”
  • WDYWFT (@WDYWFT) “So hopefully it’s compliance and significance.”
  • Joel Foner (@JoelFoner) “Q1-“So what is the deeper purpose of influence?” | Many mention actions. Influence key results  changes opinions and beliefs too.”
  • Scott McWilliams (@macengr) “Deeper purpose varies according to the individual and goal of same. Could be good or bad.”

There was some back and forth between several participants about whether or not influence is limited to changing beliefs and opinions or includes action. By the end of this thread, there seemed to be agreement that changing how someone thinks about something could lead to action or inaction, depending on the message. Alfonso Guerra (@huperniketes) reminded us of that the “Whuffie Factor discusses the importance of influence in social capital, how to earn it and spend it.” This certainly would play a role in how effective an influencer might be to inspire action or refrain from action.

I also posed the question if influence could be more than something used for marketing. Diane Court (@dc2fla) suggested mentoring and it was pointed out that there are people in our immediate circcle that we influence and are influenced by (e.g. parents).

There was also a fascinating theme about popularity and influence. Are they synonymous? Does being popular lead to greater influence? This discussion threaded its way throughout the entire chat. There seemed to be some who outright rejected popularity as having any part in influence. Others didn’t completely reject influence. As John Reddish (@GetResults) pointed out, “Celebrity and/or popularity does impact influence, in varying degrees & among different groups – it’s selective.” However two names came up as effective influencers in their spheres, Ashton Kutcher and Oprah Winfrey. But…aren’t influencers effective in their particular spheres? Joe Crockett (@JoeCrockett) tweeted, “But if you put popularity and influential together in 1 spot you have a powerhouse”

So, we returned to the discussion of influence and business with our next discussion question, What is the bridge between your business vision and becoming an influencer?

Tom Asacker (@tomasacker) pointed out that “influence more subtle process today. Experts disagree, so people don’t trust experts.” If the process is more subtle, that could make things very challenging for accepted influencers to maintain their positions while up and coming influencers may find a skeptical crowd saying, “show me.” What does it mean to be an expert now? Do you need different strategies to create a critical mass so people start to talk about your core message? Stephen Denny offered Jim Koch of the Boston Beer Company as an example, “Bridge between biz vision and influence. Jim Koch/Boston Beer Co. ‘Want to change how AmericanBridge in Paris public thinks of beer.’ “

Other thoughts about the bridge between one’s business vision and becoming an influencer:

  • Amber Cleveland (@ambercleveland) “Q2 The bridge between business vision and becoming an influencer is the mission of the biz and the vision of leadership.”
  • Caroline Di Diego “Doing excellently or in our design business ~ one of a kind design/leader/influencer of new”
  • Alfonso Guerra “Building on your relationships, inspiring confidence in your values and decision, building trust”

For the #kaizenblog participants, ethics and mission seemed to be important to influence whether the mission was to change how American public thinks about beer or some great humanitarian cause. Influence is less about ego and more about urging minds to change and actions to follow. Meg Fowler (@megfowler) cautioned, “many think influence=a lot of people paying attention…but trainwrecks attract attention too.”

Finally, we ended the conversation with this question, What has worked for you to build influence?

  • Scott Williams “Developing personal relationships (trust is key) and demonstrating competence”
  • Marketwire (@marketwire) “To build influence=provide interesting, relevant content, be authentic, build relationships first’
  • Stephen Denny “What has worked for me to build influence? Building relationships, 1 at a time.”
  • Tom Asacker “Passion and other focus at the expense of self”
  • Derek Edmond (@derekedmond) “Demonstrate expertise and successes while being available to help, coach, and/or provide assistance”
  • Diane Court “Worked for me? learning from being a parent – learning to listen to my children (seriously)”

It’s clear that relationships are important. It would have been interesting to learn why relationships build influence specifically but we ran out of time. Knowing your specialty fully seemed to also add credence to messages you send out to your audience/customer base.

This is one of those chats that had so many interesting side threads that it would be well worth your time to read through the transcript.

How would you have answered the discussion questions?

What is specifically important about building relationships that adds to one’s influence?