Being influential gives you a lot of advantages. It's easier to get what you want, whether it's new customers, brand sponsorships or important meetings. It's also easier to get others to do what you want, whether it's promoting your business, engaging with your content or introducing you to valuable people.
Wielding influence in the digital world is done through digital platforms, including social media, websites, marketplaces, exchanges, networks, forums, blogs, apps, email, voice and instant messaging. Of course, having influence in the digital word can also carry weight in the physical world as the two become increasingly connected.
But before you can wield digital influence, you need to build it. So here are my three steps for doing it as effectively as possible:
Provide distinctive value
Value is simply making somebody's life better in some way. It can be as small as making them laugh through daily memes or giving them healthy recipes through blog posts, to as grand as offering them amazing prizes through podcast competitions or showing them how to become a millionaire through a video course.
Providing value is relatively straightforward. I divide it into seven categories: giving someone entertainment, knowledge, inspiration, social status, exclusive access, a product / service or the latest news.
The real challenge is providing distinctive value. What makes what you're providing any different to everyone else who's doing the same thing? Is it special? Is the quality higher? Does it offer more value?
I've purposefully used the word 'special' and not 'unique' because too many people think that they don't have a shot because they can't offer anything unique. You don't have to be unique, you just have to be better than your competition.
To build influence, you should try to maximize all three of the above traits. Make yourself and whatever you're offering as special, high quality and valuable as possible. If you don't, you're more likely to get lost in the crowd.
Build strong relationships
One of the best indicators of influence is the people you have relationships with. That influence can either be broad (having some influence over a lot of people), deep (having a lot of influence over some people) or a combination of them.
Relationships are so important because you can't do everything yourself, so having others who you can influence maximizes your impact.
There are three groups of people I'd recommend developing relationships with in order to build your influence: your audience, collaborators and mentors.
Your audience is your tribe, and normally the largest group of people who you can influence. This can be social media followers, video viewers, blog readers, podcast listeners, email subscribers, customers and so on. Provide them with value, keep them interested, deepen your connection with them and over time, that value, interest and connection will turn into long-term engagement, loyalty and advocacy for you to capitalize on.
Your collaborators are those with whom you can form mutually beneficial partnerships. These partnerships can be based on promoting each other to your audiences, selling complementary products / services to each other's customers, helping each other with things that you're better at, connecting you with useful people or anything else helps you build your influence.
Finally, your mentors are people who can guide you into becoming more successful and influential. These can either be people who specialize in one thing in particular, or they can be people who have broadly done everything that you want to do. Mentors are so valuable because they can provide you with advice, help you make key decisions, open doors for you and generally support you on your journey.
Maximize your visibility
In the first step to building digital influence, we covered the importance of distinctive value. What makes what you're providing any different to everyone else who's doing the same thing? Is it special? Is the quality higher? Does it offer more value?
Even if all of the answers to the above questions are in your favour, there's still one question that needs to have the right answer. Is your distinctive value visible? That's something which is often overlooked, but it's the biggest differentiator between building influence and remaining unknown.
The most influential people in the world often aren't the best at what they do, and don't provide the best value. They've just made themselves very visible. Terrible high-profile actors and musicians are the perfect example. They may lack talent, but they have excellent distribution for what they produce. I'm absolutely certain that some of the best actors and musicians in the world will never be discovered or become famous, because they lack visibility.
Just because someone has the potential to become influential, that doesn't mean they will be. Influence is something that has to be actively built, not passively waited for.
So if you have the potential to become influential, how do you increase your visibility? Distribution. Spread your presence as far and as deep as you can. Use multiple digital platforms. Experiment with different forms of content, and put out a lot of it. Create a network of relationships with people who will promote you.
An average offering with great distribution normally beats a great offering with limited distribution. Work hard to ensure that both are great, and you'll win.
Building digital influence requires a combination of providing distinctive value, building strong relationships and maximizing your visibility.
Always challenge yourself by asking if the value you're providing is actually distinctive and the best it can be, or whether it's just going to get lost in the crowd.
Always focus on finding new people who you can have an impactful relationship with, and remember to nurture the relationships you already have.
Finally, always ensure that whatever you do is distributed as widely as possible, so that your efforts aren't wasted and unrecognised.
When you're always doing the right thing, your influence will steadily grow. You'll find it easier to get what you want, and to get others to do what you want. That's how you'll make a meaningful impact.