Influence is Earned in Inches, Slowly Accrued by Thousands of Generous Interactions
Real influence is the result of many tiny interactions. We build trust over time. By entertaining each other, by inspiring each other to think and act, we build strong ties to those we communicate with on a regular basis. Influence is the social glue that holds our world together, for "No man is an island". Our consistent driving nature is what attracts the attention and admiration of others. Others come to recognize us as inexhaustible fonts of energy, and experts in specific disciplines. Of course this is due to discovering our greatest work with the help of some friends.
After building numerous connections to many who share in our vision we cross a critical threshold where "the world" recognizes us. The concept is discussed and characterized by Gladwell as the Tipping Point, or Seth Godin's Ideavirus. Their points of view show us a different way of looking at life and the spread of ideas.
Gladwell describes that:
"epidemics behave in a very unusual and counterintuitive way. Think, for a moment, about an epidemic of measles in a kindergarten class. One child brings in the virus. It spreads to every other child in the class in a matter of days. And then, within a week or so, it completely dies out and none of the children will ever get measles again."
Seth shares this insight in his free pdf book
"Ideas can now be carried in the ether. Because the medium for carrying ideas is fast and cheap, ideas move faster and cheaper! Whether it’s the image of the new VW Beetle (how long did it take for the idea of that car to find a place in your brain?) or the words of a new Stephen King novel (more than 600,000 people read it in the first week it was available online), the time it takes for an idea to circulate is approaching zero.
Why should we care? Why does it matter that ideas can instantly cross international boundaries, change discussions about politics, crime and justice or even get us to buy something? Because the currency of our future is ideas, and the ideavirus mechanism is the way those ideas propagate. And the science and art of creating ideaviruses and using them for profit is new and powerful. You don’t have to wait for an ideavirus to happen organically or accidentally. You can plan for it and optimize for it and make it happen."
Those of you who are familiar with the Oprah effect, and with twitters growing popularity are already aware of "the Stephen Fry effect" or "the Ashton Kutcher effect". Their influence is seen as incredibly powerful by those wishing to be "discovered". When they suggest a product or website a storm of attention follows (sometimes overwhelming and crashing a website). Just recently Seth Godin promoted author Chris Guillebeau, and many of his readers were happy to be introduced to Chris' inspirational message (many includes me, thanks Seth).
We would benefit from better understanding the characterization of social media's giants. Not just popular Hollywood/TV celebrities, but folks that are web/blog authors, CEOs, or anyone who's fairly active in the social media community and has a large following. It would be valuable to know what their effect is or gauge it in someway. As a society why do we respect and value the opinions of a few so highly? What steps can we take to improve our own influence in the shifting future?