When social media first started to become an important part of a communications strategy, we spent a lot of time figuring out how to increase the number of followers our various social media accounts had. We strived to hit certain milestones (help us reach 1,000 followers). We created incentives for people to like our page or share content. And we celebrated when we achieved one of those milestones.
Now don’t get me wrong. It is still important to have a follow base. But for today’s communications strategy, we should be focusing on what kind of influence that follow base can wield.
I heard Paul Nicklen speak last night. He is a Canadian photographer, filmmaker, and marine biologist who, according to his website, has documented the “beauty and the plight of our planet” for more than 20 years. And he has 5.2 million followers on Instagram.
Wow! An impressive number for sure, but I can’t help but wonder who those 5.2 million followers are. Are they voters who will call their elected officials encouraging them to support legislation to protect the environment? Are they aspiring photographers who are trying to learn from his style? Media, business leaders, bots? In all likelihood, all of the above.
Does Paul have influence when it comes to environmental issues? Most definitely. Can he activate that huge follow base to do something about it? Maybe.
Four Steps to Influence
Influence can’t be bought or bestowed upon you. It is something you have to earn. And you earn it by sticking to these four things:
Trust. When we trust someone, we believe they have our best interest in mind. We respond to that trust by engaging in a conversation, participating in a program and passing along the information.
Consistency. To gain influence you must be consistent in your words and your actions. Sure, it is ok to change your mind, but those that act with consistency will back up that change with sound reasoning.
Credibility. Demonstrating that you are vested in the process and are focused on something other than yourself.
Investment. By investing in people and causes you provide a value to those who look to you for information.
None of these things require huge numbers to be influential. But by treating others with respect, keeping their best interests at heart and leading with consistency and credibility, you will be an influencer.