How do people become truly influential in the social age?
If you, like me have been raised with the notion that celebrities, sports stars and politicians were influential because of what they do and not who they are – we’re on the same page. But when you actually examine today’s influential people and how they became influential – the picture has changed dramatically.
Influence is both a natural and learned quality that is developed over time. It can still be inherited, received by winning an election, or conveyed by a new job title – but that’s becoming less prevalent now. I’ve seen influencers in the social age drive tremendous awareness for social causes, leads for companies and votes for presidential elections.
Many of these influencers have mastered the art of communicating what everyone else is thinking or what they should be thinking. They are curious and always ask, “What’s important here?”
So after studying, hiring and working with some of the most influential people on the planet, my team and I have identified 25 things these influencers do better than anyone else.
1. They are Fantastic Public Speakers.
Influence is about communicating ideas and making them stick. For most influential people, public speaking is the best way to do that. Brian Solis is a well-known digital analyst and author – and part of why he is so well known is his unique ability to motivate his audience at keynote speaking engagements.
Kare Anderson has told me, “Brian is one of those rare presenters that can deliver quality content and enchantment at the same time, in the same sentence.”
2. The Ability to Make the Mundane – Interesting.
Matt Cutts is head of Google’s Webspam team, and he’s sort of the unofficial face for Google’s fight against spam. He accumulated his nearly 300,000 Twitter followers because of his ability to educate people on web spam while entertaining them in the process. And he’s well known for his sense of fairness. When Cutts found out that Google had violated its own quality guidelines, he downgraded Google Chrome’s homepage. That takes a lot of courage.
3. They have exceptional interpersonal skills.
Most influencers have a unique ability to make the person they’re talking with feel special. It’s the ability to chat with anyone, about anything. Influencers are great at chatting up people at conferences, events, meetings – even on social channels. Social media branding pro Mandy Edwards is a great example of someone who not only shares great info on her Twitter account, but also engages in back-and-forth discussions with the people who share her content.
4. They have more passion about their interests.
As Steve Jobs once said, “People with passion can change the world.” The influencers we know all have passion about their interests. If you read Michael Carney’s articles on pandodaily, you’ll see that his passion for early-stage technology companies ensures that he puts in the time and effort to get to know the companies he writes about, and he happily shares these details with his readers.
5. They find the positive in things
When Facebook started to alter their algorithms around EdgeRank many people were upset and started slamming the company. Mari Smith on the other hand, took everything in stride and trained her followers on how to maximize opportunity with the new system. This Facebook marketing coach has done more than her fair share of speaking events, webinars, guest blogging, book writing and more, but she never appears anywhere without a huge, welcoming smile on her face. This friendliness makes her more approachable, and is a good lesson to aspiring influencers who find themselves a little on the sour side.
6. They have superior powers of persuasion.
Influential people If they couldn’t persuade you – to like them, to buy their book, to read their blog, to work with them – influencers really wouldn’t have much power. Visit Jay Baer’s website, for instance, and you’ll notice one thing right away: it’s called “Convince & Convert.” Jay’s philosophy is to help businesses use social media to persuade their audience of a core message, and with clients like Wal-Mart and Petco under his belt, it’s clearly working.
7. They have the confidence to act.
They believe in themselves, no matter what, and will often take huge risks because of this confidence. Benjamin Robbins, principal at Palador, is one confident guy. He is a top 50 mobile influencer on Twitter, writer of a top 50 IT blog, and believes in his ability to use mobile tech so much that he’s spending an entire year working solely from a single mobile device.
8. The accelerate prospects through the sales funnel.
Influencers move clients through sales funnel from prospect to client with unsurpassed quickness. Whether it’s self professed “geek culture cultivator” Chris Pirillo recommending the latest tech, or Robert Scoble evangelizing Rackspace, they’re able to make sales that don’t seem like sales because of their genuine passion for what they’re selling.
9. They maintain an intense focus.
Being a known quantity is beneficial for influencers, since they won’t have to bother with those tiresome “introductions” the rest of us have to go through. Take a look at Bob Egan, Forbes columnist and self-described “mobile industry veteran.” He’s not writing about his Harley or his kids. He’s writing about mobile. He is mobile. And whether you read his column, or connect with him on Twitter, he always embodies mobile business.
10. They can instantly energize a room.
An influencer knows how to work a room and her energy is contagious. Lauren Hockenson is a tech reporter for GigaOM, and, while she’s definitely on top of the latest tech trends, she also knows how to get other people excited about them, too. Just check out her highly-energized Twitter feed @lhockenson.
11. They have more charisma.
We’re all influenced by charisma, and we all fall for it. Influential people have a natural charisma that helps them make a point, persuade us or get us to listen. As Achim Nowak, author of the new book “Infectious: How to Connect Deeply and Unleash the Energetic Leader Within, has said, “charisma is inside and that ‘je ne sais quoi’ is what enables certain people to draw you in. When we talk about charisma, it’s the quality people who light up the stage have. They’re like an energy magnet—and we want to engage.”
Chrissy Farr, was named by MediaPost as one of the top ten most influential people on Madison Avenue, and Refinery29 as one of "eight women making moves in tech." Farr’s charisma has certainly helped.
12. They have remarkable networks.
Being plugged in to an active, engaged network is part of what influencers do best. They’re able to connect to and build relationships with people who they can help and who can help them. Sensei Marketing partner Sam Fiorella is the founder and moderator of Twitter’s first weekly debate, #bizforum, a forum for him to network, connect others, and learn about the latest business trends. The connections he’s made through this chat have no doubt had an impact on his success.
13. They are talented multi-taskers.
They may be talking to you, but know that at least 25% of their brain is somewhere else. Don’t worry, you have their attention – 75% is all anyone can get! Influencers are busy people. Just take Danny Brown for example: he has the #1 marketing blog in the world (as chosen by HubSpot), is the co-author of a recent book on influence marketing, a speaker at TEDx, New Media Expo and more, VP Marketing & Technology at ArCompany, and he has two kids and two dogs to boot! If he wasn’t multitasking, he’d never be able to juggle so many balls at once.
14. They are flexible and adaptable.
Being able to change mid-action, adapt to challenges and develop high quality content for an audience are important characteristics of successful influencers. It’s better to bend than to break, and influencers know this intuitively.
Haydn Shaughnessy is one such influencer – not only is he an expert at spotting trends, he is quick to adapt to them. His excellent coverage of Apple and Samsung demonstrate how quickly he recognized what his followers wanted.
15. They have excellent timing.
When do you jump ship? When do you give it your all? Influencers are able to time their moves to make the most positive impact on their lives and the lives around them. Guy Kawasaki has jumped from being an Apple evangelist, to writing books, to (most recently) working for Google+: all moves that have extended his career and his influence.
16. They freely give out compliments.
Give and ye shall receive. The more compliments influencers dole out, the more accolades they tend to get in return. Many turn to Twitter or other social networks to pump up those around them. Take a look at how enthusiastically Cheryl Burgess (@ckburgess) takes to Twitter to compliment her followers.
17. They leverage technology to improve their reach.
The best influencers always seem to use the latest social tools, platforms, mobile apps and other tech to extend their reach. They make a point to stay on top of trends and they use the latest technology solutions to optimize their time. TechCrunch’s Alex Williams (@alexwilliams) is an example of someone that understands the power of technology, media and reach.
18. They are more prepared.
The big difference between highly influential people and those that want to be are the amount of preparation that the former puts into their work. Influencers don’t jump into anything blind if they can be prepared for it. They’ll pour over websites, documents, emails, notes and anything they can get their hands on before they head into a client meeting or big event.
Steve Faktor doesn’t just show up to a client meeting with a few notes, he brings a well-researched playbook for discussion. Faktor is every client’s dream consultant.
19. They are equally productive when they travel.
They’re often on the go, so they’ve mastered the art of being productive while traveling. eTickets, online check-in, conference calls from the security line… influencers know how to use their time and technology to make travel easier and more productive. They seem to be on the go all the time but they don’t miss a beat.
Social business strategist Bryan Kramer is a master at staying productive while on the road. He will be a speaker, host or panelists at 10 conferences across San Francisco, Portland, Lake Tahoe, Dallas, Virginia, Atlanta, Colorado, San Jose, New Orleans, and Los Angeles between July 30th and October 10th of this year – and he’ll still be as productive as you and I.
20. They understand the power of reciprocation.
Anyone with influence understands the importance of reciprocity. Just like they give and get compliments, influencers live in a world of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” They’ll happily do favors for those in their network, and they expect those favors to be returned sometime in the future.
If you’re looking to build a business, look no further than the master reciprocator- Ted Rubin. He’ll quickly build a community around your business – just keep some vests at hand.
21. They are Kinder.
Don’t confuse kindness with weakness. Princess Diana was one; Imelda Marcos is the other. The former understands that malice doesn’t pay in the long run. They also know that being helpful can go a long way in winning fans and influence. Take a look at Kristi Hines, who blogs at Kikolani. She offers plenty of free content for optimizing personal and business blogs, a free ebook, free guides – and yet she’s still able to bring business in to her content development services. She’s helpful and kind, and that’s a big part of how she’s become a regular contributor to several Power 150 blogs.
22. They are ethical.
It’s tempting to work with a company merely for the money. But the influencers we work with go out of their way to avoid those situations. And when they do work with a company they like, they disclose the relationship. It’s not just the law; it’s the right thing to do.
23. They don’t have an off switch.
Lori Ruff is known as the “LinkedIn Diva”, and she lives up to that name in everything she does. As you’d expect, her LinkedIn profile is pretty close to perfect, and she’s always using LinkedIn to share business news and ideas with her colleagues. But if you follow her on Twitter or check out her Facebook page, she’s “on” there, too – posting and engaging about LinkedIn and social business.
Ruff always seems to be helping people, making connections and expanding her network. She isn’t someone that slows down.
24. They build trust.
You can’t build something great without a little criticism every now and then, and influencers tend to take this in stride. Rather than being derailed by critiques of their product, service or brand, they use this feedback to make themselves better, stronger, and more trustworthy. Influential people understand why they need to stand for what they believe in – and in the end, people will respect and trust them more.
Ekaterina Walters doesn’t need to think like Zuckerberg to build trust; she has become one of the most trusted sources of information for influencers precisely because she is open, transparent and honest about her opinions.
25. They spot trends.
Most influential people can accurately predict new short-term trends and shifting tastes in their sphere of influence. They’re at the hub of activity, conversation and sentiment about their focus area. It can be anything from fashion to automobiles to technology, keeping an eye on these influencers can help your business’s decision making.