This is a complex topic to discuss – it’s more than just “online influence” [(c) Klout]. It’s real, it leads to an outcome. It can be positive, it can be negative. It can happen online, it can happen in a meeting, it can happen in a bar.
But no matter where the instance may take place, there are three main components that must exist for us to call something “influence.”
It’s difficult to truly, purposefully influence someone if you can’t clearly state your idea or concept.
Part of this is knowing who you are and what you believe is true and right.
This month, we are all being inundated with structured advertisements on why Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are the problem and/or solution to everything in the United States. Tack on local elections and issues and you are probably seeing dozens of well-articulated arguments every day.
Now, just because something is presented well doesn’t make it true or false. But for this discussion of influence, what you believe to be true is more important than what actually is true.
This is easy to relate to PR. Without a holistic understanding of your company or client, how can you effectively convince a reporter or editor to use their valuable space and air to cover it? Furthermore, once you understand it, you have to sell it.
You can’t seal the deal (get the coverage) if you can’t present it clearly.
Once you can articulate whatever it is (fashion trend, big event, whatever), you have to make people aware of it.
Online, of course, you have blogs, websites, social media, the whole toolbox.
The benefit of online content distribution is the potential for one-to-many exposure. Although, that one-to-many comes as a result of a) building a community and b) generating worthwhile content.
Additionally, awareness can be segmented by intent. Who do you wish to influence? How can you build your presence to them?
Another thing to remember is that influence isn’t necessarily tied to a person. Your idea can influence countless degrees of people that you’ve never interacted with in any way.
If someone isn’t aware of your idea, they won’t be influenced by it.
Action (Or Non-Action)
Unless there is a result, there is no influence.
If you like a song when you hear it on the radio, but don’t search out ways to dig deeper – either finding the lyrics online, buying the album, going to see the band live, talk to people about it, write a poem based on the song, etc – did it influence you at all?
The aforementioned political ads are also goal-oriented. They want you to vote for/against their candidate or issue.
I’ve known which candidate I will be voting for for quite some time, so I can safely say that the Presidential ads have no influence on me. However, there is a hot-button issue in my home state of Maryland about allowing more casinos in the state. I had no opinion on this until seeing countless ads on both sides of the issue helped me decide which way I will vote. Thus, those ads (all of them) influenced me.
What about you? What has influenced you lately?