Influence is heavy and the weight of responsibility in wielding it has kept me from sharing my thoughts for far too long. Not that I profess to be very influential, but anyone who puts themselves out there and seeks to have an effect on the character, development or behaviour of others, should do so responsibly. I could say that I’ve had writers’ block for the last year or so – but the real truth is the fear of responsibility!
Who wants responsibility anyway, right? Not many of us according to Seth Godin, who was the opening keynote at the conference I just attended in Boston. Seth says we are shirkers of responsibility, yet we all want authority. Well, seeing as no one is giving out authority it’s up to us (in Seth’s words) “to stand on the spotlight” and take responsibility. This is how we earn authority.
This is what bloggers and other online creatives do every day – they stand on the spotlight and earn authority. However, authority is only one contributing factor to influence. I’ll be digging into authority and five others principles of influence in future posts – there’s far more to understand.
That’s what the Influence Files is about for me – an opportunity to share my knowledge and help bloggers, podcasters and other online entrepreneurial creatives to first understand their influence and then use it in meaningful and sustainable ways. Who am I to attempt this?! Well, I’ve been helping others monetise influence for a few years now. I’ve made (and learned from) mistakes and gained an appreciation of, and insight into, the real potential of influencers. I’d like to share with you my observations.
In order to realise the full potential of your ability to influence, I believe you need to be willing to bear the weight of it. So what does this look and feel like?
- It’s treating your influence like an obligation and privilege to positively affect the audience who grants it to you, rather than an entitlement that you can wield as you please
- It’s being selfless in the way you serve your audience, rather than self-serving
- It’s the confidence that you can return value on your ability to affect change with real influence, versus demanding compensation and recognition just for having an audience
- It’s the humility of being an experiment in order to help your readers, not the hubris of professing to be an expert to dazzle them
- It’s realising that you are paid in time and attention by your readers, viewers or listeners and not spending that earned attention frivolously
That last point about how you ‘spend’ your audience’s attention leads me to share my most favourite quote from Scott Stratten at Inbound in Boston . . .
— Laney Galligan (@laneygalligan) September 9, 2015
Integrity, credibility and trust are hard earned and important factors of influence. Every time you publish an ill-fitting sponsored post, every time you compromise your voice, every time you spam your audience you are ‘spending’ these valuable resources, and like Scott rightly says – you don’t get them back.
I recognise that one of the most attractive and abundant opportunities for influencers to monetise is through working with brands. It’s important though to realise there are different ways you can do this. For those of you who know me, you know I’m not backward in coming forward about how I feel about the sustainability of bloggers flitting from one-off sponsored post to one-off sponsored post. For most, it’s not sustainable – sooner or later there will be no more integrity, credibility and trust left in the bank.
I may be a little idealistic, but I believe the way forward is to leverage relationships with and attention from brands to achieve something awesome for your audience, not just to achieve something for the brand. I’m not just talking about a token win for your audience (ie competition to win something), a payout for you and a happy brand because they got exposure for their message. I mean a more collaborative and longer term approach where the brand supports the influencer to create something of real value for their audience and benefits from well aligned values, goodwill and positive awareness.
Think about how a brand could help you with a social good project, help you create a product your audience actually wants, help you put on an event for your followers. Brands need to spend more time establishing relationships with influencers and their audiences before asking/paying for attention for their campaigns and messaging.
This is not happening nearly enough! All too often influencer marketing is more akin to a contrived circus act of jumping through hoops, where influencers are distracted by campaign budgets and take their eye off the real prize (the true long-term value of their influence). However, the more influencers understand their influence and become more confident in what they can achieve with it, the more likely this shift will happen.
In the meantime, remember this – if you choose to responsibly bear the weight of your influence (and hence realise its full value), you won’t be able to jump through many hoops.
I’d love to hear how you choose or want to use your influence. I’ll meet you in the comments below!