The misappropriation of ‘Influence’

It might not seem like much of a word but in fact influence is often associated with people of power or knowledge. It is people like these that because of the nature of their power or knowledge that can affect change, knowingly or even unknowing.

Stephen Hawking can influence our understanding of our world and our universe with nothing more than the written word or a few words spoken via a synthetic computerized voice.

Alan Greenspan at the height of his power as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve could affect global money markets with nothing more than a tersely worded memo.

Men and women who have the ability to change our lives because of their ability to influence the world around us haven’t come by this ability through the number of people who know them but rather by the quality of the people who know them. The amount of influence that they have acquired comes from years of experience and learning to communicate with their peers.

Will you or I ever meet Stephen Hawking or have a dinner with Alan Greenspan?

Not likely but that doesn’t diminish in the slightest their influence on us and our world. However the fool you – fool me world of Social Media would have us believe that by the sheer number of people connected to us by nothing more than a digital one or zero that we are suddenly these great influencer’s of society.

Using cutesy terms like ReTweet and Social Media influence in the same breath as brands having conversations we are lead to believe that we can become one of those influencer’s by accumulating as many followers or friends as we can while retweeting everyone else’s messages.

As Joel Postman said in a post the other day

“Retweet influence”? “Mention influence”? I have yet to see any of these things linked directly to real influence. The primary definition of influence is “the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others.” It’s difficult to show that a 140-character item flying by in a Twitter stream or RSS feed has, by this definition, any influence whatsoever, and if one doesn’t, one million 140-character items don’t either.

Are we so easily fooled into believing that because we have a couple of thousand or more questionable connections to other people that we are gaining any real influence as we become the 3,000+ person to retweet some vacuous puff piece on a blog somewhere?

What kind of influence are we really gaining as we re-purpose, regurgitate or retweet some metric laden corporate message crafted by some schmuck who thinks they’re some kind of new world social media marketing ninja.

The reality is that for anyone to have any kind of real influence means doing more that getting a whole bunch of people to follow you on some social media marketing platform and spending your days clicking some retweet button. None of that is conferring any kind of real influencer status onto you but it sure is making the company, marketer, blog or social network that conned you into doing all this day in and day out look really good – and that in turn perpetuates the whole stupid mess.

You want real influence?

Well it’s going to take more than retweeting some advertised wrapped puff piece. It’s going to take more than finding ways to con people into following or friending you.

Influence – true influence – only comes with time. Time spent working your ass off. Time spent learning and listening to people smarter than you.

Influence is something that finds you. It isn’t something that has some sort of numeric value attached to it.

Influence is an intangible quality that others see and believe in you. It isn’t something that come with a little bit of web savviness.

The influence bill of goods that we are being sold by all these social media mavens and gurus is just that – a bill of goods.