You can identify influencers because their thoughts, rather than their photographs, are everywhere. They author the inspirational quotes in your email signature, their are RT’d by the thousands and their books are described as “must reads.”
A thought leader and celebrity rolled into one, the term “influencer” is a description conferred on business and social luminaries such as Tim Ferriss, Gary Vaynerchuk, our very own columnist Mark Evans. They are respected in their communities, as well as their industries, and their accomplishments warrant recognition. Some are now calling them KOLs or “key opinion leaders.”
“Leaders become influencers when they demonstrate behaviours and communicate messages that both resonate with others and reflect a level that others strive to be,” says Gavin Rouble, a consultant with The 2% Factor, a conflict-resolution company that helps employees work together more effectively. “That ‘level’ may reflect the success they have achieved, they reputation they have built, the results they have attained, or some other factor. When someone is perceived to represent a “gold standard”, through their actions and behaviours, that others find desirable they will influence the behaviour of others.”
Tim Ferriss, who created The Four Hour Work Week book, has completely merged lifestyle enjoyment, curiosity and business issues. It’s a wild ride financed by risky but smart angel investments that is the height of aspiration for the backpacking professional. His influence is communicated through every possible channel, whether social or broadcast in nature. Ferriss is a prolific producer of tweets, books, podcasts, blogs and even a TV show.
According to Rouble, influencers earn their titles not in the media arena, but in the intellectual forum. Quite simply, good ideas resonate.
“My experience is that frequency and level of activity of social media interaction and blogging continue to remain secondary to the message,” Rouble says. “While frequency and activity level can certainly increase exposure, if the message the audience is being exposed to isn’t ‘clicking’ with the audience, no one will pay attention and it becomes a make work project.”
E-commerce pioneer Gary Vaynerchuk has parlayed his experience as a lifelong entrepreneur into a lucrative speaking and consulting career advising major corporations about how to market their brands across all kinds of channels. In a series of books, he’s talked about how his life and business experiences have shaped his thinking on marketing, pursuing passion and keeping track of how people are thinking, and what they’re doing right here, right now.
Rouble says the author-speaker model is still one that works when creating a true influencer.
“Writing books and keynote speaking are an effective way to establish yourself as a person of influence because it exposes the audience to your message in a far greater level of detail to a very specific audience,” Rouble says. “They are both signals that you are indeed an expert in your field and builds credibility that you should be listened to.”
Mark Evans (a B2BNN columnist), who built his reputation working with technology industry start ups, has a consulting and speaking career that shares his emphasis on story-telling as a business communications and positioning strategy. The story-telling strategy is rooted in journalism, as well as in fairy tales and every other kind of media, with a long, multicultural tradition that everyone knows, but may forget in all the noise of constant communication.
Emphasizing tradition might well be the source of what makes Influencers attractive: traditions that have been proven to be reliable, inspire trust in relationships.
“Leaders build trust by building relationships,” Rouble says. “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care and this requires putting effort into building the relationship. The greater the number of relationships and connections (whether build face-to-face or online), the wider the community.”
In building that fundamental trust that inspires relationships to become established, Rouble advises would-be influencers to focus on these five tips:
- Be authentic, people can tell when they are being B.S.’d
- Remember that no matter what your expertise is, you are human and so are the people that need your expertise
- Focus on the results you have achieved, not what you believe you could do if given the chance.
- Always be respectful of others expertise, views, beliefs, and accomplishments.
- Remember that it isn’t about you. Business leaders exist to meet the needs of their people, their people don’t exist to serve them.
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