Written By: Adam Dince
Have you ever known someone that’s the “go-to” person when you’ve needed information on a particular subject? Or how about someone who is so knowledgeable and passionate about a topic that they inspire you to feel the same?
A good friend of mine in Arizona, John, is a car aficionado. He’s a walking Kelly Blue Book and car encyclopedia. John loves cars—it’s his passion—and it’s inspiring. When I first moved to Phoenix, I was a new college graduate, making very little money. I was stuck driving an old beat-up Toyota Corolla that would have never gotten past the Arizona DMV inspection. I desperately needed a new car, but I wasn’t making enough money nor had I been working in one place long enough to get financed for a reliable vehicle. Then I met John. John is so influential within the auto community, that he was able to make a few phone calls and get me into a brand new Nissan Sentra. It was the first new car I ever owned.
Over the years, John and I became good friends and we often talked about cars. I was never a “car guy,” but John turned me into one. Because of John, I became passionate about sports cars, driving fast, and wanted to be more like him. As I began to grow in my career and started making better money, I was able to afford nicer things. And what I wanted more than anything was brand new Ford Mustang convertible. On a Saturday afternoon, I wandered into a Ford dealership and fell in love with a beautiful black top, red Mustang with tinted windows. I knew I had to have that car. After a few frustrating hours of going back and forth with the sales guy on the price, I walked out of the showroom, called Johnny and asked for his help. John said,
Adam, while you’re sitting with the sales guy, call another dealership—tell them what you’re being offered, and I bet you’ll get them both into a bidding war.
So, I did it, and it worked. I got the car at $5,000 less than the sticker price. On top of that, I landed gap insurance and was able to extend my 3 year 30,000 mile warranty to a 5 year 100,000 mile warranty for no extra charge.
The reason why I tell this story, is because we can learn a lot about becoming a social influencer from John. Being a social influencer isn’t about automatic tweets, buying sponsored placements in social networks or gaming algorithms. In my humble opinion, that’s all hogwash. To me, being a social influencer means being considered both an online and offline trusted subject matter expert and being someone that people feel comfortable reaching out to. It’s about being someone like Johnny.
It’s a Gift
I believe that people who are naturally gifted at socializing and networking in real life have the potential to be the most socially influential people on the Web. Why? Because they’ve got that “it” factor. Some people are cut out to be powerful social influencers and others aren’t. Let me tell you, I’ve sung my share of Van Halen tunes at Karaoke. Will I ever be a David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar? Not a chance.
It’s Not Preachy
Being a social influencer involves the art of communicating your knowledge and passion in a personal way. We as people don’t like to be talked at or talked to, we don’t like impersonal messages, and we don’t like smart-ass know-it-alls. We like to connect with people who we can relate to and make us feel like we’re part of the community.
Give your opinion and share your thoughts, but do it in a way that attracts people.
It’s About Having a Point of View
When I was asked to blog for my agency, MRM Worldwide, I was a bit apprehensive. I said to our General Manager, Mark Singer, “I don’t know if it’s wise. I mean, I have strong opinions about digital and I don’t want to attract any negative attention to MRM from those that would disagree.” Mark gave back some great coaching and said:
“Don’t worry about being controversial. It’s important to have a point of view no matter who does or doesn’t agree with it.”
I’ve adopted that philosophy and have started blogging regularly for MRM, which helped lift my visibility within MRM and the IPG family of agencies. So, speak your mind and get-over your self-doubt.
It’s About Quality Over Quantity
It’s okay to ask people to read your content and to pass it on if it passes the smell test. But ask politely and try to make it a personal request. Also, please-please-please don’t beg for PR. Teddy Roosevelt coined the phrase, “If you build it, they will come”. I believe that to be the case in becoming a social influencer. Put your wallets away and save your money on buying perceived equity. If you’re putting out smart, sexy and engaging content, if you’ve got personality, if you’ve got a point of view, if you stay on point, and you distribute your content correctly, in time you’ll organically generate a following; thus leading you to a high quantity of quality followers without even asking.
It’s About Having a Findable Repository of Content
It’s one thing to tweet, share, comment, and participate in social networks. It’s another thing to build a library of content that people can refer to when they need information. In other words, have a place where you can show off your thought leadership. I highly recommend creating a blog and keeping it up to date. I also recommend socializing your content through Twitter, Facebook, G+, social communities, etc…
Also, optimize your blog and its content for organic search. When people look for information, they use search engines so it’s important to be findable. On top of traditional SEO, integrate social functionality on your site that allows readers to socialize your content throughout the Web. Finally, show your blog visitors that you’ve got people that read and trust your content. Throw a Twitter and/or Facebook widget on your site that displays those who are following and/or like you. If people enjoy reading your content, trust its legitimacy, and it’s easy to share, you’ll find that your work gets distributed to a variety of social places. This amplification can and will lead to your success as a social influencer.
I recently ran into someone who said, “Hey, I really enjoy reading your blog!” I said, “You read my blog?” And she said, “Yes! Of course I do!” What a great compliment!
Let’s be real folks… Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time to become a thought leader and social influencer—the question is, is “Do you have the heart to stick it out?” There are a lot of similarities between social media and organic search (SEO). One of those similarities is that most of the time, results aren’t instant. You’ve got to give it time and give your “brand” a chance to build up equity within the community. Keep focused, keep on rockin’ it and in time, you’ll be influencing others.
It’s About Being Scalable
I’m considered to be an influencer within a pretty amazing network/group of digital professionals. However, am I a Danny Sullivan or a Pete Cashmore? As Whitney Houston would say, “Oh hell to the no!” Will I ever be? Who knows? As I said above, it takes time to build up your reputation and prove yourself.
I recommend looking at your reach of influence in scale. When I started running again, I’d get frustrated by not hitting my goals. I knew I had to run at least 30 minutes, but at about 18—my head would start saying, “Adam, you’re so tired… just stop now, you’ve ran long enough!” And I would listen. Then I started setting smaller goals for myself, like: run for two minutes and then up the speed +.1. Then run another two minutes and up the speed +.1. In a matter of weeks, I was running for 40+ minutes and killing it on the distance. It’s because I set small achievable goals for myself.
Do the same with growing your social influence. Set a long-term goal, but make sure you set smaller-achievable goals along the way to help you get there.
It’s About Social Networking
Being promoted by recognized social influencers can help you build credibility within the community you’re looking to influence. It’s like high school all over again. In order to be considered popular, you’ve got to hang with the popular crowd. This doesn’t mean that you should be cliquish. What it means is that you should spend time focusing on building relationships with those in your industry that have already built up considerable equity. Once you’ve gained their trust and they can vouch for you—they will.
It’s About Love
You’ve got to love what you’re doing and love talking about it. If your subject matter is a bore to you—your flame will burn out quickly. If you love what you do, people will see that and it will catch on. It’s infectious.
Most social influencers are passionate about what they do. Sometimes we’re referred to as “nerds” or “geeks”, but it’s a crown we wear proudly. If you love what you do, then the rest will fall in place!
If you’ve made it this far, God bless you! There’s so much more to say about becoming a social influencer, but I think this post is long enough. If you have any questions about this subject, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Thanks for reading!