The Problem with Influence

Ego and big heads

I just read something by a friend that’s both interesting and sad at the same time (and sad as in lame, not as in Bambi).

My friend mentioned that he was speaking to a well-known PR guy and author a few months back.

The topic of the conversation was a site for bloggers and authors that my friend works at. According to the PR guy, the site would never be much of a success because he (the PR guy and author) wasn’t ranked high enough.

The PR guy then went on to say that the site wouldn’t be a success because, “You have to make sure the biggest influencers are ranked at the top.”

As my friend so eloquently put it, well f*ck me sideways.

Influence Shminfluence

The problem with influence is that it all boils down to relevancy. You can’t tell me that a pig farmer in Alaska (tough old pigs out there!) is influenced by what a PR guy is saying about the 2.0 or 3.0 world.

Instead, I’d think he’d be more influenced by bacon writers and pork chefs, and analysts looking at how the pork buy trade will look in the next two years.

When it comes to influence, the folks that matter to us are the ones that are in our industry, or affect the industries of our customers and clients. That’s what influences our business and its success (or lack of it), not someone who’s in an industry that has little to no relevance to us.

There’s no doubting that the PR guy is influential in his sphere – but does that mean he should be viewed as such in all spheres, and “ranked higher” because of it?

Egos and Eggheads

And this is where the real “problem” with influence comes in – when it starts to make you feel you automatically deserve to be in a certain position, or recognized more by something or someone.

The quote my friend uses – “You have to make sure the biggest influencers are ranked at the top” – is possibly the biggest reason why influence is coming under so much flak at the minute (just Google “Klout sucks” to see some examples).

We seem to be creating an environment where people expect to “be someone” because you have some success in a certain field, which is a shame.

There’s nothing wrong with success, and there’s nothing wrong with pride in your achievements. Hell, success should be celebrated.

Ego, on the other hand (especially one where your head gets as big as an egg’s on a pin tack) is a different beast altogether. When it reaches the stage that someone says a venture won’t be successful because the influencers aren’t ranked higher – then we have a problem.

Influence and Success

We need influence. Consumers buy from their favourite celebrities and their recommendations of a product. Professionals buy from people they trust when that person makes a recommendation. Brands use “names” to help promote products and services.

So influence works. But wouldn’t it be better to be the right influence, as opposed to the type that’s defined by someone who appears to have a huge dose of self-importance?

And as for that site that would never be a success?

There are about 30,000 authors and bloggers registered with the site. The company had a great Blog World Expo, and are about to launch a new platform that (ironically) will help people like the critical PR guy connect with bloggers for PR campaigns.

Not too bad for something that defines its own influence, huh?

image: Divine Harvester

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