‘Influence’ and Influencer’ are words that have accelerated in use in recent years. You can achieve Influencer status on LinkedIn (based on numbers), You can be an Instagram and social Influencer (again based on numbers) and it can allow you to charge for what is in your photos. Large corporates have ‘Influencer’ lists and strategies to get that all-important share of a post from that person. What I have come to realise is that you can be an influencer based on numbers of followers alone. You probably have never met your 60,000 followers in person and you know very little about them, but the number next to your social profile has made you influential in marketing eyes. I think that is all totally fine but highlights that being ‘An Influencer’ and being ‘Influential’ are two different things.
So what does being Influential mean?
For me, being influential means knowing faces, names and having conversations with people that have ticked more than a box to follow you. Somewhere in your relationship with them, you will have also made an impact on them. I am lucky enough to have just reached the final of The Venus Awards for ‘Influential Woman of the Year’. I have almost 800 followers on Linkedin, most of whom I have met or spoken to. I have worked with over 500 businesses in the last 5 years delivering business masterclasses or working with them as a consultant. Through all that work I have met some fantastic businesses, suppliers, experts and had a lot of laughs and challenges along the way. The journey you have with someone builds trust and hopefully a positive opinion when you leave the room. I am not the greatest networker in the world and I have built my contacts by directly working with people and helping their businesses grow. Influence for me is that people trust in my knowledge and that I have proved myself to them. This could just be that I may have provided someone with confidence in their business ideas or provided a connection to someone else who can benefit them. I recently set up and ran a ‘Business Week’ locally and I needed expert speakers. I went back to people that influenced and inspired me when I worked with them over the last few years not knowing if they would flatly turn me down or not. I was delighted when all 19 speakers immediately said yes and even more delighted when the week turned into a great success.
How can Influence sneak up on you?
In my experience, it is not always the things that people pay you for that drive influence it is what you give away for free. Give time freely to things that you have a passion for and your network of like-minded people builds. Help out out other professionals and recommend freely if you feel that they really know their stuff. Ask me 5 years ago if you thought people would think of me as Influential and I would have almost certainly given you a no. However, over the last few years, I found more and more people coming to me with questions, joining me for events, asking for recommendations and recommending me in return. It is not the well-known faces of the world either that can wield the most power when giving you the credibility. For me, many of the new start businesses or small enterprises are the ones that have passed on good comments.
Influence means people feeling comfortable and trusting you
I sum up this blog with a story from one of my clients at a meeting two years ago. He had been my client for quite a while and we had built a good relationship in our meetings. We were discussing confidence and the old story of being like a swan gliding across the water whilst paddling like mad underneath came up. Suddenly he laughed and turned to me and said; “Karen you are nothing like a swan!. You are like a goose, running like hell across the top of a lake ready for take off!”. I stopped and laughed out loud. Looking back I actually think this does sum me up quite well and it was great he had the trust to say that to me. I decided to take his comment as a good thing as my impact on him had been the hard work and he could see it.