You know that feeling you get when you pick up the phone to call your cable or phone company? You’d almost prefer to go to the dentist I bet! Its easy to get frustrated with those automated systems, especially the new “voice recognition” ones that I find myself pressing lots of random numbers in the fruitless hope that I will inadvertently shut down the entire thing. Alas, none of that works, but we’ve all tried anyway haven’t we? If we could just reach through that phone line to a competent individual, we’d be much more likely to behave when we do find a person. But what if we had the influence to change the situation?
The problem is that we are not in control. We have no voice. We are not being heard and no one is listening. Historically, companies have rarely actually listened to their customers. Sure, they did the consumer taste testing thing , but that was then. This lack of really listening is one of the main drivers behind the #occupywallst movement a year ago. Companies have always broadcast their message to us through the TV, radio, mail, magazines and ads anywhere they could stick them, including our children’s clothes, our video games, movies and even our phones. Now they are broadcasting to us through social media and on our mobile devices without really understanding much beyond what their data tells them.
The real power in social media is that it gives everyone a voice, even if that voice is sometimes wrong. There is no single person behind social media. It is group chaos at best. But one voice can influence and sometimes redirect the whole thing. It’s kind of like a flock of birds. One bird decides to change direction slightly and at first one or two may follow, but then the entire flock goes along, all within a few milliseconds of each other.
The question on every corporate marketer and government leader mind today is, how do you control this flock that loves you one moment and is ready to tear down everything the next? There is no answer to that question of course, as long as people have free will, but we can strive to be influencers of the flock.
So what is an influencer?
- They Are Trustworthy. They are a trusted source of information with original thoughts and aren’t just retweeting stuff other people say.
- They Are a Thought Leader. Has a loyal following of readers. The type that actually interact and react to what you say and aren’t just followers because it’s cool.
- Their Words Have Impact. Can impact other influencers that amplify your words and ideas far beyond your own audience.
- They Are Engaging. They regularly interact and engage with their followers. Engaging in real-time is extremely important these days.
- They Go To Their Audience. They use the the same tools (usually Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram) as the crowd. It may not always be the sites you are used to though. It may be private communities or bulletin boards.
Can you claim being an influencer? Actually everyone is an influencer, it just depends on how far your influence goes. If you want to influence this generation or the next, if you want the flock to follow your lead, it is something earned with a lot of hard work. There are rarely any shortcuts.
For you business leaders, it means being honest and actually engaging with your customers for the first time. For bloggers, it means having a voice that doesn’t simply repeat what others are saying. Finally, for you parents, it means being courageous role models your kids can look up to and emulate.