The world has really become very small—anybody from anywhere can have their voice be heard. Someone in a small village with an Internet connection and the right skills can start contributing and adding value to a discussion, and suddenly become what I call an ‘influencer’. An influencer is a person who has an impact on other people and their decision-making. An influencer is also followed online, and respected for possessing a specific skill set. An influencer’s impact on a listening audience can quickly multiply and spread, as we have seen in conferences where people tweet an influencer’s message.
Becoming an ‘Influencer’ Online
So, the question is—how can one become an influencer? The first thing to do is define what you want to be known for, and determine what kind of value you’ll bring to the discussion. Once you have defined your space—and are passionate about it— your communication online will be more natural and enjoyable. This will bring you more followers and people who want to retweet your message. Be focused in your messaging, and educate your followers so they know what to expect from you. If you want to be branded as the specialist in cloud computing, for instance, use that as a guideline when crafting your blog posts and updating your Twitter feeds.
In the past, you could rely on physical charisma to win over an audience, but today you will have to cultivate your charisma online. People tend to forget that the Internet can be unforgiving if you use an online profile that does not accurately represent you and your thinking. Creating an Internet profile that is different from what you actually are will nearly always fail. We have seen it many times—you can lose your personal brand identity overnight when you are exposed. I have always told people that if you meet me in person and read my blogs later, you should be able to recognize me by the topics and opinions that I consistently voice. Some people work under anonymous signatures, which I feel goes against the principles of open communication. If you have something to say, say it with your own name or don’t say anything.
When I finally got my act together in blogging and understood what I needed to do—as I described in my first post—I wanted to gauge my success. One option was to use a service such as Technorati, which indexes and aggregates blogs, or Klout, which will profile you and categorize your impact and influence online. Most indicators of your social media clout are based on your continuous efforts producing relevant content. These sites will give you immediate feedback if you have not stuck to your plans of contributing. Your score yesterday does not necessarily mean anything in the future.
I’d like to recommend a book that explains so well how an influencer has impact within an ecosystem or across ecosystems. Superconnect: Harnessing the Power of Networks and the Strength of Weak Links, by Richard Koch and Greg Lockwood, examines the concept of the ‘superconnector’—a person who not only connects others within an ecosystem, but is also a bridge between different ecosystems.
When you identify an influencer or superconnector in your ecosystem, attempt to learn from their actions so you can start working to become known as an influencer or superconnector yourself. It takes time to become an influencer—there are no shortcuts, and you have to build trust within your ecosystem, as readers will not follow a person who has not created a sphere of influence. New followers will appear, having become interested in you due to your other followers. Even online, the old saying “it’s not what you know, but who you know” applies.
In my next blog entry I will explain in more detail what it means to be an influencer, and what your ecosystem will expect from you. Stay tuned for more.