What on earth IS influence?

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Last week Like Minds ran some free events for Social Media Week, one of which was on Social Influence. The participants debated digital influence over and over, bringing their different views of what they considered influence to be and what it looked like. Followers, shopping, reach, action, volume – these were the things that were discussed. You can hear many of their thoughts here.

Then this week, we got word that Like Minds was the “most influential on Twitter” for the whole of Social Media Week globally. That’s quite an incredible thing to have said about us. This is based on the number of tweets with our hashtag and/or Twitter account mentioned, which we led.

However both our debate on social influence and then this stat that we were the “most influential” trouble me. On one hand, I don’t agree with either of them, but on the other hand, there is some truth in them in the way that they are perceived and the end result that they have had. Let me explain a bit more and then let’s discuss it:

Influence is not measured by numbers

My dear friend Trey Pennington wrote a great tongue in cheek post last week on “4 keys to increasing your Klout Score“. The first half is now to get a higher Klout Score, which is a service that supposedly calculates your social media influence.

Then Trey writes in the second half:

THE REAL KEY TO INCREASING YOUR INFLUENCE ONLINE (and off)

None of the suggestions mentioned above has anything to do with real influence. Real influence is complex, multifaceted, and environmentally constrained (time, space, people, place, topic, occasion, etc.). Influence is more significant than two digits can capture (though Klout is necessary nonetheless)…..

Even so, as I ponder the real keys to increasing real influence, the words of Zig Ziglar ring in my ears and reverberate in my heart. A definite key to increasing your influence is found is Zig’s counsel: “You can have everything in life you want if you’ll just help enough people get what they want.”

Don’t worry about increasing your Klout score (or twittergrader ranking or whatever comes next). Just use whatever gifts you have to help other people accomplish their dreams. If you’ll help enough other people get what they want, you’ll have all the influence you’ll need.

But influence is helped by numbers

If you are helping one person, you are influential in that persons life. But if you are helping two people, you have the opportunity to increase your influence.

Note that I said opportunity. Unless you actually do create bottom line influence, it’s theoretical and not actual.

So what do you think influence is?

I lecture on influence and have been reading about it for years, and still I find it a hotly debated topic. Perhaps I just lack a framework

;-)

So I’d like to hear the smart inputs of the Friends who hang out here: what do you define influence as?

Photo courtesy of US National Archives

Archived Comments

  • http://twitter.com/WDYWFT WDYWFT

    Hi Scott,
    I just started reading Guy Kawasaki’s new book Enchantment. It reminds me a bit of Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to win friends and influence people’. The message is similar: make connections (be likable), then inspire the other party to take action. I’d say that’s influence.

  • / Scott Gould

    You got a copy of that too huh?

    :-)

    I’d agree with you, and I’d say that influence can be boiled down to being the result of one word: empowerment.

    Whether this is on a mass scale – like empowering people through a blog or book, through TV, or being in government – down to a small scale of making someone feel powerful enough to take on a problem as you talk over coffee – this is all empowerment, and it is the ones that you actually empower that you have influenced

  • http://twitter.com/WDYWFT WDYWFT

    Empowerment, hm, let’s see. My ipad (that I won – luck me) makes me feel empowered (enables me to do new stuff) – check. Commenting here makes me feel empowered (confident; because I trust that you respond and that your response is mindful) – check.
    And so, Apple and this blog influence me – check.
    Nice definition. One question: who needs influence?

  • http://twitter.com/Robin_Dickinson Robin Dickinson

    The capacity to have an impact on the ‘life flow’ or destiny of another person.

  • / Scott Gould

    The capacity or the actual impact?

  • / Scott Gould

    Well thank you!

    Who needs influence? As in who needs to possess it? I think we all posses it because we all empower people. It’s then whether you increase your influence or not.

  • http://twitter.com/WDYWFT WDYWFT

    Thanks – yes, that’s what I was thinking about: some people/positions have a greater need to increase influence. Entrepreneurs, for example. They have no ‘influence cap’. A manager of a local fast food restaurant on the other hand would have a smaller desired-influence-radius… or so.
    Interesting. Thanks for the fft & convo

    :)
    Have a grreat weekend!

  • http://treypennington.com treypennington

    Thank you Scott. The discussion around the topic of influence, who can measure it, and how to get more of it, has been encouraging. At first some wrote criticizing only one of the four keys to increasing your Klout score. I was a little surprised that any would take issue with only one key—all four seem to be equally egregious.

    In the end, Klout overhauled their algorithm (probably totally coincidental) and people are reflecting upon true influence—the kind that Klout or FastCompany’s Influence Project will never be able to measure.

  • / Scott Gould

    Agreed!

  • http://dr1665.com Brian Driggs

    I think Robin’s suggesting actual impact. We don’t carry around this fantastically hyper-connected, revolution-empowering network in our pockets with us wherever we go because some people are more influential than others. The internet has become as pervasive as it has because it provides genuine, meaningful VALUE to people.

    If you ask me, influence is why we have a world full of shallow value-flipping corporate shills marginalizing the masses. Influence is why we have obesity epidemics and financial/moral bankruptcy in the western world. Influence is used to convince people there is value where, really, there is not.

    Those sincerely trying to address needs, empower others, and truly make the world a better place have no need for such puerile metrics. Influence should be a byproduct of creating value – not a metric of division to be used for greedy advantage.

    [Santa] sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. So you better bet good for goodness’ sake (not because Santa buys that Klout nonsense).

  • http://treypennington.com treypennington

    I’m in Atlanta, Georgia, USA to speak at a conference of the National Speakers Association. Met a spectacularly wonderful gentleman from Australia. Definitely a kindred spirit, so I started telling him about my good friend, Scott Gould. He says, “Scott Gould…I’ve heard that name before…” So I tell him a little more. He says, “You know, I think I may know Scott Gould…there’s this guy in Australia…” and I interrupt with, “Robin Dickinson?” “Yes, Robin Dickinson…there are 19 million people in Australia, I say ‘there’s this guy’…and you know who I’m talking about!”

    Is this a wonderfully well connected world or what? Paul W Andrew (@paulwandrew) sends his warm regards to both of you.

  • / Scott Gould

    AMAZING!

    Trey – this is SO what you do – connect people together

    Send Paul my regards! I am sending this to Robin now

  • http://twitter.com/paulwandrew Paul Andrew

    Hey Scott… First heard of you through Robin & Don Cooper-Williams when I lived in Sydney… now I’m NYC based, and met Trey at NSA… it’s a SMALL world. Hope to actually meet you sometime. Got a church up here too now @LIbertyChurchNY

  • / Scott Gould

    Trey your blog post has been incredible for kick starting much needed conversation.

    People really are lost with their strange ideas of influence!

  • / Scott Gould

    Paul! Thank you so much!

    It is indeed a small world – now following you and I will check out @LibertyChurchNY

  • Anonymous

    Expose —> Educate —> Engage —> Empower = Influenced

    Those influenced repeat the cycle = Measurement

  • http://twitter.com/Robin_Dickinson Robin Dickinson

    Incredible, Trey. Thank you for passing on Paul’s greetings. I really appreciate it. Best to you both.

    :)

  • http://www.adrianswinscoe.com/blog/ Adrian Swinscoe

    Hi Scott,
    I’m a little late to this party and was thinking about this as I read through the comments. I was going to suggest that influence is helping someone or something make a change. On reading the comments, would you then suggest that that ‘help’ would be empowerment?

    Adrian

  • / Scott Gould

    I’d go beyond help and use the word empower myself as it suggests that you have helped direct them.

    Influence is about me influencing you – making an effect on you – as opposed to just being there – IMO

18th February, 2011

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