Asking for Influence Gets You Something Else
Earlier this month I received a string of private, direct messages (DMs) on Twitter from someone who has never sent me a public or private via Twitter or other social network. She’s never sent me an email. I’m pretty sure she’s never commented on my blog or my Instagram photos. She’s not a shareholder on Empire Avenue. As far as I recall, we’ve not met me at a conference or had a conversation on the telephone. Our sole relationship is that she is a human being with a Twitter account who chose to follow me whom I chose to follow back because she has an interesting Twitter bio.
The first direct message asked me if I could “get out the vote” because she wanted to win some prize being given to the person who got the most votes. I don’t know anything about her beyond her Twitter bio. How could I ask my friends to “get out the vote”? The choice seemed simple choose for my friends and my network — by not asking them to invest time — or choose for someone I don’t know.
That’s when it got interesting. The string of messages that came next thanked me for my help and asked me for help again. One in the mix — most likely meant to explain the behavior said, “she was crazy for the prize,” but she’d be happy to get noticed even if she couldn’t “take it home.”
The experience reminded me of a wave of similar requests that flooded my Twitter account during the run of the Fast Company Influencer Project in 2010 and a blog post I wrote about influence back then. What follows with some further explanation is what still applies now.
Recently Jason Pollock commented on Twitter about the Fast Company Influencer Project Project @Jason_Pollack said, I signed up for the “influence project” but quickly realized those at the top were just being very spammy to be there.
They have a point.
Begged, Borrowed, or Stolen … The Economics of Influence
People rich with influence understand it as a currency. True and lasting influence — like true and lasting wealth — is earned through investment of time and resources. But it’s also a way of thinking and valuing what we do and the people we do it with. But influence, unlike monetary currency, cannot be begged, borrowed, or stolen. It can only be earned.
When a stranger asks me to “get out the vote,” she’s begging to borrow my influence as if it’s a limitless commodity that I’m at liberty to share. Were I so frivolous as to offer my network so freely to people I don’t know, I’d soon find that I’d spent what influence I had foolishly by not valuing the people who had valued my word. Or to paraphrase the axiom …
A fool and her influence are soon parted. Here are four ways to use the economics of influence to build influence of your own.
The difference between begging and building influence is the difference between giving to get and investing wisely.
- The exchange rate. In economics, influence would be a local currency. It’s value is only worth what your network agrees that it might be. The ideal is that you might take a single contact to move people to action. Contests that require millions of votes to choose a winner are an example of hyperinflation.
Power up your network. Be willing to work to prove your value.
How can you connect with the people who most represent what you value?
- The production costs. Producing influence takes resources — spent in building quality relationships, systems to maintain them, content to keep connected with them, and ways to grow those relationships. True influence grows from aligning our goals with others.
Share your influence as an equal partner.
How can others be better because you helped?
- Specialization. People rich with influence have integrated their passions and skills into their sphere of influence. They choose their networks on values and ethics and by doing so have established an automatic barrier to entry.
Know and value what has drawn you to each and all of your contacts.
How do you describe your network?
- Scarcity: Supply and Demand. If oak leaves were currency. They would only be valuable where oak trees don’t grow. People who have influence choose and feel no need to showcase their influence bank account. Their generosity is from a place of strength. They promote what they value in others, not what they hope will return.
Value your word and the power it has.
How do you know what not to influence?
When we know the value of our influence, we can invest it wisely in people who invest back. We don’t give our value promiscuously to every person who asks. Influence is earned. It’s given as a trust and kept by those who understand its value. It can’t be begged, borrowed or stolen, and in like manner, it can’t be bought or sold.
Who influences you simply by the way he or she influences others?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz on your business!!