Today, Dan Schawbel, best selling author and someone the New York Times calls a branding guru, highlighted another important element of personal branding — being an influencer. He based his statement on an article last week in the CNN blog highlighting how influencers create business success.
What is an Influencer?
Today, the term influencer is thrown around pretty loosely — often referring to the number of followers or fans a person has. Influence really goes well beyond just numbers. It really reflects connections between people and the ability to impact the actions of those connections. To a large extent, influence is the fuel behind social media marketing — the fact that friends and people you follow impact the way you think about company brands.
And, influence isn’t a new idea. Businesses use connections between individuals all the time. Referrals are a good example and a good salesperson never leaves a sales call without asking the prospective customer if they know anyone else who needs the company’s products.
How Influencers Create Business Success
In the example highlighted by CNN, the firm used employees’ connection with potential clients to build a better understanding of the prospect — a process Berkley Professor Morten Hansen calls “Swarming the Target“. Armed with this information, the firm positioned itself as solving key problems faced by the prospect.
Sure, this kind of thing happened in the days before social networks. A lone salesperson gathered information before making a sales call. But now, the information is richer for having multiple employees involved in the process and the information these employees gather is deeper — containing both specific information about the company and decision-maker, but also containing background information on both. Deep information not only helps uncover unmet needs, but may identify how the decision-maker thinks so the sales presentation is tailored to achieve maximum results.
Don’t forget the influencers in your target company, as well. Titles may identify people who make decisions, but influencers impact those decisions and it may not be obvious from a title who these influencers are. Reaching influencers may be both easier and more efficient than reaching the decision-maker.
And a single influencer, might influence multiple people within an organization.
Steps to Using Influencers Create Business Success
1. Map Influence
Relationships between people are invisible. By making them visible you can make them controllable. You can illuminate gaps in collaboration, you can build them and you can strengthen them.
So, look for patterns of communication, both online and off — who’s talking to who.
2. Build Influence
Use your map as a template for building greater influence.
- Cultivate relationships with individuals who influence decision-makers.
- Gain influence over the folks who are influential. People are influenced by people who:
- they respect
- provide valuable interactions
- are knowledgable
- they like
Building Your Brand as an Influencer
Dan Schawbel commented that firms may start hiring employees based on their influence. I don’t think this is too far in the future. Once firms see the value created when influencers create business success it only make sense they would hire employees who know how to become influential or already have a wide sphere of influence.
In building your personal brand, becoming an influencer is important.