What is influence?
Influence is the art of getting others to do what you want them to- but without forcing them. It could include getting people to care about your cause; to interact with you when they need help; or to give you more funding.
Why do you need it?
As an organisation you need it because it will help you to build your networks, reach out to your members, communicate your brand, story and objectives- and to do all these things in the most cost-effective way possible.
As individual members of an organisation you also need to know how to use influence in your particular roles- and to the continued success of your career over time.
What do you need to think about if you want to have more influence?
This model helps explain the main things that you need to think about if you want to grow your influence.
In this article I will help you look at one of these areas, your personal brand and how to communicate it.
Crucially, in order to have a good personal brand and to grow your influence, you need to think about who your audience is. Who your audience is will affect everything from the tone of the language that you use, to where you try to reach out to them. It might be that you have multiple audiences, but wherever they are, you need to think about how to reach them before you do anything else.
What are the primary online channels you can use?
LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are three of the most widely used platforms, so I’ll briefly discuss each.
LinkedIn- LinkedIn is the most important professional networking platform on the internet.
- Make sure that everyone in your organisation has full LinkedIn profiles and that everyone, including Board Members, has a clear link to the organisation. If you want you can provide them with common text to use in their profiles, to ensure consistency.
- Encourage everyone in your organisation, especially the most senior or public-facing members, to use LinkedIn inbuilt publishing function. This article explains how.
- Consider starting a LinkedIn Group if there is not already one for your organisation’s area of specialism.
Mistakes to avoid:
The most important one is simply that LinkedIn is not Facebook. Encourage your team to be particularly sensitive to the fact that it is a professional networking platform. That doesn’t mean that they should have no personality on there (far from it) but they should take care with the level of personal things that they share.
Twitter- Twitter is an extremely useful platform for sharing breaking or topical news. It is also very useful for sharing updates from an event in real-time.
- Every member of your team on Twitter (including Board members) should be linked back to the organisation’s main account in their Twitter bio.
- Help others- even more than the other platforms, Twitter works best when organisations/people with common goals help each other by sharing each others’ posts. It also helps to use hashtags so that people can easily find content that interests them.
- Use Twitter lists- there are two main types of lists. Public Twitter lists help you to become know as a connector and collaborator in your field. Private Twitter lists help you (without anyone else knowing) follow what the most important voices in your field are saying while filtering out some of the ‘noise’ on Twitter.
Mistakes to avoid:
The most important thing to avoid is that you shouldn’t be in ‘broadcast mode’ all the time on Twitter. Try to interact with and share others’ posts as well as your own.
Facebook- Facebook is the biggest social media site in the world and as such you should think about it as a way to reach out to your audience.
- Try to use a mix of content on Facebook to attract people’s attention. For example, live video is now available. You also need to think about using visual content to make people notice your posts and consider the frequency of your posts- if you post too little people won’t be able to notice you among all of the other posts in their feed and if you post too much they may stop paying attention.
- Consider running an advert on Facebook if you want to reach out to a particular group. It is amazing how much you can segment and it can help you to think carefully about your audience. You really don’t need to spend a lot of money until you are confident that you are getting to the right people.
- With all these platforms, but maybe particularly with Facebook, it pays to watch what other people do. Pick 5 organisations that you admire and then see if any of them use Facebook well. If they do then what can you use for your own work?
Mistakes to avoid:
Don’t get too discouraged if every post doesn’t get engagement. Facebook in particular has made great changes in who it shows content to. Experiment and keep learning all the time.
Aside from these platforms, you need to have a good website that tells your story effectively and encourages people to engage with your work. I would encourage you to use other platforms to drive people to your website. The problem with other social media platforms is that you don’t set the rules- the owners of those platforms control how you are able to reach out to your audience. On your website, you decide. So, if you want to get people to engage with your website and to keep coming back to it you can include things like a blog, an email list people can sign up to, a video or podcast series etc.
How can you use influence to build your networks and help your members?
If you can have a better personal brand through social media platforms and most crucially, through your website, you will have the ability to reach out to and collaborate with more people. You will also have the ability to connect your members and supporters with each other.
The internet has brought a great many opportunities for growing your personal brand- many for free or at low cost. You need to be consistent, grow your brand over time and always, always think about how you can help your audience. If you do that you will grow your influence- and further the objectives of your organisation.
This article was written by Alex Swallow. Alex is a Communications Consultant for WINGS and an expert on influence. You can read his bio on the staff page here.