When talking about influential people we can all agree on one common characteristic: they are or were different; their thoughts and actions are and were unlike those of their peers, unlike those of the rest of the world. They are the individuals that every company or brand needs to succeed because they are the ones that people listen to, the ones that people follow and mimic. Think about Steve Jobs, about Beyoncé, Andy Warhol and Nelson Mandela, we don’t follow them because of what they have or what they had, but because of what they represent. We are surrounded by these individuals, both influencers famous and not, and they are significant people in our lives. Without us realising it, they are the ones that help us connect, they are where we get our information, and they are the ones that persuade us to do the things we do.
Defining an influencer
Influencers have a certain presence. It’s the colleague who changes the office mood with their morning “hellos”. It’s the one that knows everyone’s name, their colleague’s hobbies and always asks about their weekend. They know how to form relationships and in today’s economy, this is an indispensable skill. In the business world, the influencer is the employee with connections, with the social following. Because they are well liked and trusted they are the ones that have the power to affect purchase decisions. Think about it, if your friend posts a link on Facebook describing how they love their new X brand jeans, chances are, you’re more likely to trust their decision over an advert. It works the same way with big companies. Think of Michael Jordan selling Nike, Bill Gates and Microsoft. We’ve been told through television ads, magazine articles and interviews to trust these people, and not by force, but by their actions, from what they believe in and what they represent. We are more likely to buy a product from someone we trust, that we feel we have a relationship with, than a no-named somebody on our television screen.
And this is where companies need influencers. Because they sell products. Influencer marketing identifies these exceptional individuals and adapts their company marketing strategy around them. It’s not about what you’re selling, but what your product represents. Take the tech industry for example, and then take the name Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs represents more than just a product; he represents innovation, perseverance, charisma, philanthropy. He represents much more than a product, he represents a movement and those who want to feel part of his movement buy Apple products.
Influencers make great leaders: they engage employees and those around them, they stay productive and they have a positive attitude. Behind every task they do is a specific purpose, a vision. This vision or goal is the thing that drives them to do what they do to the best of their ability.
Some people are born leaders and some strive to become leaders. Like leadership, being influential is a learned skill.
Becoming an influencer
I believe that anyone can become an influencer, perhaps only a few as prominent as Steve Jobs, but within your office or workspace, you too have the tools and knowledge to influence.
Be social and network: See everyone as a potential ally. When you meet someone new, listen; remember their name and something about them. By opening up your circles, you widen your opportunities.
Goals: Before you begin a task, set your goals. Know the reason behind every task you do. It’s not what you’re selling that counts, but what it represents.
Take a walk in their shoes. This is especially significant to brand marketing. If you’re selling a product to a different culture, you need to know their traditions and their beliefs. Be worldly, read everything you can and don’t be afraid to start a conversation with someone new.
Listen. Listening is a skill that most of us take for granted. Not only will you gather important information, but you will gather trust. And trust is the most important factor in forming relationships.
In the end, it’s about defining what’s important. Influencers have to know their audience; what do they value, how they feel about certain issues? They have to know their market; what’s trending, who’s buying what and why?
It’s never a bad idea to smile, to say hello and ask about your colleague’s day. We can’t emphasise it enough; networking is the way to make it big in today’s world; both personally and professionally. Stay up to date, know what’s going on around you and always have your goals in clear view.