It is ok to start calling yourself something, as long as you can persevere and do the graft.
It doesn’t matter if you step up and give yourself a title, no one else is going to help you or give it to you on a plate.
This article asks, can anyone be influential? You can call yourself whatever name you want, however, it is up to others to decide if you are meaningful. They will decide by seeing a bank of work that has your name to it.
People get hung up when they see others calling themselves influencers, thought leaders and experts. Particularly when it becomes self-appointed. That’s ok, there is plenty of us to go round and what may not be for you, maybe for someone else.
When it comes to being influential, there are two camps.
1) Take the money and run (it’s all about you). A bit like anybody who is happy to say that a BigMac with bacon is not a BigMac. These are people who are influential because they are known by others (albeit scraping the barrel with Andi Peters).
2) Do the work and create for an engaged audience (it’s all about others). This means you then look your audience in the eyes and understand the value that you provide.
This article is not about how to take the money, by any means necessary, in the shortest possible time. It is about showing up so others want to run with you.
Let’s Start With A Definition
Dr. Sevil Yesiloglu is a lecturer in digital marketing communications for Bournemouth University (she is also the main guest at the March You Are The Media Lunch Club, where our topic is influence). Let’s pick up on the definition of influencer marketing (she is working on a book about it).
This is how Sevil defines the whole influencer space and what it means:
“We can define influencer as a person who has a power and ability to influence individuals and their (buying) decisions.
“In their space (it can be any communication platforms), they mainly have a niche audience that would already believe their power, authority and expertise in a particular subject, product, industry.
“This actually makes the influencer system work- having a niche and a particular target audience who believe what someone says! We can categorise influencers into different groups: journalists, celebrities, micro-influencers, macro-influencers and mega influencers and… nano influencers!
“Nano influencers are the key group, who have the least number of followers but the most authentic relationships with their followers. These are the key individuals have proved us that anyone can be an influencer. ”
Rolling Up Your Sleeves
Doing the groundwork and graft that has your voice is far more rewarding than going down the route of what you have heard many times before about following your dreams and living the life you always wanted. There is nothing new in this.
The goal is not to come up with one BIG idea, but break that big idea into an explosion of smaller ideas. This accumulates over time and can strike a chord with other people.
– Ben Roberts has just published his book Marketing Buzzword To Marketing Authority. This has its roots in his Marketing Buzzword Podcast that helped shape the book and the many voices who have contributed.
– Roger Woodall has his Bournemouth 7s festival this May. It started 12 years ago. Over time he built this idea of a festival that is about people spending time together with sport as a theme, rather than coming for a headline music act.
– Andrew & Pete launched their first Atomicon Conference on Friday 8th March. This is off the back of building their audience via their Atomic community and making that step to curate a conference. It is going to be back on 28th April 2020.
So, when it comes to influence, these all relate to people who build over time and not where a logo comes to the forefront for anyone to hide behind.
Here is the timeline from my side. It’s basically one big idea (grow an audience in an owned space), that is blown like a dandelion into a whole host of places.
In the recent Edelman Trust Barometer, it pointed to the biggest opportunity for all of us.
People are ready and prepared to trust other people who have a point of view and make their stand. It doesn’t have to be the Vaynerchuk, Branson or Steve Job quote jpegs of this world, it is about the rise of the normal. It is better to live on the edges, rather than in the middle with everyone else and the same motivational quotes.
This is where influence makes its big nod. People become influenced when you provide the value that they cannot get elsewhere.
It is the influenced who decide if you are influential.
You Just Start & Keep Digging
No one has to tell you to start a blog, write a book, record a podcast or put on a conference.
You start and build a bank of work where others become familiar. Over time, the work and audience accumulate. It is not about trying to convince everyone, but the people who will feel comfortable, safe and rewarded in your space. It is better to build a trusting community (click here to read the difference between audience and community), rather than moving from one transaction to the other.
We all want to belong to something, not rejected, it is good when people look at you and say, ‘I trust that person.’
This Is How The Influenced Can See You As Influential
In the shortest possible way to explain, this is how you do it. It’s all about others and not what you can take from someone else.
You build a house with a robust foundation, where you are 100% happy to live in. The foundations are built on message, familiarity, connection, heart and meaning.
It might not start off as a plush looking place, but if you study where you are going wrong, you get better and know where to modify and adapt. A recent example from my side was figuring out why people were walking out of the You Are The Media Winter Tour, you can read that here.
The house where I live in, I want it to be a place where people enjoy coming to, not where the lights in the lounge are flickering on and off. That huge satellite dish on the side of the house is the place to transmit and where the message is directed from (the email, You Are The Media Lunch Club, social).
Having a satellite dish to transmit is better than lighting a bonfire in the garden where you put a heap of effort in but end up annoying everyone in the neighbourhood. This is where becoming influential comes in. Your message reaches out to others that is relevant and resonates with those who want to receive. This is how people engage with what you create and trust you.
What About You?
Whilst you can call yourself a thought leader or influencer, it doesn’t mean that others think you are.
When you come back time and time again from a space that others can distinguish you by, people feel more obliged to come on board. It is about understanding a place within a marketplace and taking on board a responsibility.
It comes down to how you want to lead. To be seen as influential, you have to lead. In the words of Seth Godin, charisma also has a role as well. Seth says, ‘Charisma doesn’t permit us to lead. Leading gives us charisma.’
Things to take on board:
– Have a point of view that makes it easy for others to understand
– Share it
– Encourage others to participate and join in
– Build in one space and make it work (for others to become comfortable) before you start working with other channels ie. blog before audio
– People connect, trust is earned and relationships grow
Let’s Round Up
No-one owes anyone an explanation for what they do and the title they give themselves.
However, chasing a term that you think you are or want to be, will guarantee that you never achieve it if you just stand beside a name and do nothing with the responsibility.
Show up, do the work, distribute your message, people connect, your space grows. It doesn’t matter what you call yourself when the right people are listening.
It’s not about producing one big piece of work, it is the thousands of smaller pieces and fragments that can make someone else think differently, want to lean in more and come to your side.
You can be seen as influential by others, it’s about finding people who get it and are ready to run alongside you.