I literally just submitted a talk abstract for the Inbound Marketing Summit in Boston, Oct 6&7 about this topic.
Some people rightly commented on Twitter that one minute was too short for wow insights (see the irony?), so here's one for you from my own tool book:
True influence flows from drawing together people with shared interests. It's a process of identifying areas of relevancy among your customers and prospects, community building, and allowing others to amplify your influence as you meet their needs.
Sure, trust is part of the relationship, and authority, and all that good stuff. You'll be chasing the popular kids (even those who demur) until the cows come home if you keep thinking that influence is about you. It's not. And you don't need the following of a celebrity to build something of significance.
What you need is to identify areas of relevancy among your customers and prospects, build community, and allow others to amplify your influence -- as you meet their needs. Identify, build, allow -- no voodoo or pixie dust here.
Fast Company ought to know all this. They attracted a community that at some point was 42,000 members strong. I know because I was there from the beginning. It was a true movement -- evangelists of the ideas espoused in the magazine making them happen in life and meeting to talk about the experience.
Why we keep forgetting that, and the great individuals who spearheaded those connections -- people like Heath Row, Chris Heuer, and many more -- I have not a clue. I was there, in service. 42,000 may not seem like a big number to you, I'm talking about the year 2000.
This is the reason why, when Fast Company reached out to me about the Influence Project, the experiment seemed a bit off to me.
How did this happen so close to the launch of ThoughtLead's initiative, The Influencer Project? I'm curious like the rest of you who clicked through to the site, except for I had a full day of projects ahead and did not get the chance to find out what it was about until last night. Customers do come first.
Fast Company had more than a community. It was a movement, and ahead of the times. A movement that had purpose:
- on 9/11 we were online coordinating support for stranded travelers
- at a local level, all the volunteers who helped pull the community together got the collateral effect of finding a new career more aligned with their passion during hard employment times
- the genuine, collaborative spirit was not building a paid wall for anyone -- we were all in it together
- and so many more examples of off line action because of online connections among peers
Although we had a listserv and literally word of mouth to spread the word at the time, we got quite far towards our goals of diversity and inclusiveness. We built alliances with other organizations to invite diversity of thought. In my experience, alliances are a better way of building meaningful networks.
That work was done for all the right reasons. We were engaged, we were listening and learning, and we were evangelists for the magazine and the community of professionals featured in it. There was so much energy around the network that people flew halfway around the world on their own dime to meet with each other and the editors for what you would call a very successful mega tweet-up over a weekend.
So why did Fast Company's Influence Project get more buzz going than the network ever did? Nobody seems to remember or know about that, even the professed long-time readers and the experts in the space. I tell you why, the Influence Project played to egos. That's why.
Everyone is wrong about influence. Except your customers. Think about that before you get into trouble for not delivering meaningful results.
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