The word 'influencer' has been so overused in the social media space that it becomes a tough area to take seriously these days. Are you an influencer? Am I an influencer? What makes someone an influencer? IMO, these are pretty subjective questions to answer, don't you think? See, the definition of influence varies on who you are in the world. To some, it's the thousands of followers following them. To others, it's the amount of engagement someone receives. To me, it's how your lifestyle inspires an active change in someone else's life. I was recently asked to share out a tweet for someone in a foreign country because of my 'influence'. I am 99 percent sure I have very few followers from that country and the tweet was incredibly specific to something go on in that particular part of the world. Granted, the tweet might have possibly caught the right person's eye somewhere. I don't know the life story of all of my followers, and who knows if one of them was somehow connected to the cause. However, what bothered me about it is that this company was clearly asking me to share the tweet because of the amount of followers I have. This was a huge mistake. Had they taken a moment to see where I lived, what my interests are, or learn anything about me, they would have seen that people interested in following me and what I'm discussing are probably not the people they wanted to reach with the tweet.
So often brands and people disregard the influence of highly influential people on social media because they don't stick out with a huge following, or a bevy of 'interviews' on websites. In other words, they are not how social media has tried to define and influencer. Influence is not about followers, something I can not stress enough. Influence is about how well a brand, or individual, can convince its community to make a change. Let me tell you something --> Followers have nothing to do with how convincing you are to your community.
So now that we might be on the same page about how I define influence, let's address something more important --> the difference between positive and negative influence. I was listening to a sermon today that emphasized the importance of relationships and how social media is actually making us feel more alone. Not only that, everyday there are more stories of cyberbullying which are absolutely heartbreaking. Middle school and high school were difficult enough without the addition of online ways to hurt someone.
With more people feeling lonely as a result of social media, and cyberbullying on the rise, it seems like negative influence is overpowering the positive. Wouldn't it be a better feeling to know that we left someone feeling a bit more happy after an exchange on social media, rather than spending hours perfecting a filter on a photo and trying to convince them that we have a perfect life so they feel less-than about their own?
Here are some ways to gut-check whether you are skewing more positive or negative these days as you influence your own community you have created:
What Types Of News Are You Sharing? How Are You Sharing It?
This is an obvious, but an important question. Are you sharing positive news that's happening in the world, or are you helping to sensationalize the negative news that networks love to beat you over the head with? Now, this does not mean that you can only share positive news to have a positive influence. It just means that when you do decide to share some negative news, maybe add why that piece of news is relevant to you and your idea of a solution for fixing whatever bad thing happened in the news you are sharing. I do strongly recommend to share more positive news than negative, though.
Do You Spend More Time Reaching Out, Or Posting Updates?
It's easy to be sure that we post our own updates ASAP, without taking the time to see what everyone else is up to. You want to spend more time reaching out to your community, celebrating their wins and being there for their losses, than you want to spend posting your own updates. Let your community know you are there for them, and see what you can do to serve in their lives. This approach will not only help you strengthen your relationships, but will help you combat that loneliness feeling that can come from just constantly posting about yourself.
How Are You Wording Your Updates?
Are your updates sounding like genuine updates on your life or like some propaganda to make the world thing that your life is so much better than it is? Are you eager to rub it in your community's face that you won that prestigious award, or are you proud of your work and want to share an important moment in your career path? The way you word these moments will directly affect how they come across and influence your friends. Try to be more inspirational and less boastful by adding something in there about where you started, and now where you have gotten to. Thank those that contributed to the great moments in your life, and make sure you say why it's important to you that this moment happened. By adding these buffers, you help add context as to why this is relevant in your life and not just something you want to throw in someone else's face.
Have You Asked Yourself What Your End-Goal Of Being On Social Media Is?
Sometimes it's a good idea to approach your own social media presence like a business. After all, your social media presence is your personal brand whether you like it or not. What is your goal by being on social media? Some goals can include staying in touch with friends and family, sharing updates on your own life, spying on people you no longer have close relationships with, sharing your cool photography work, promoting your business, etc. Most likely, it's some combination of these. If you're only goal, however, is to share updates of yourself or promote your business, you might want to take a step back. Think of how you can use the powerful voice of social media to positively inspire others, while still sharing updates and promoting a business.
Are 'Likes, Shares, Retweets' More Important, Or Conversations You Are Having Online?
Studies have shown that likes, comments, retweets, etc. on social media release positive chemicals in the brain that make us feel better about ourselves. So I completely understand how all of these types of engagement can be addicting, and perhaps shadow your reasoning for actually participating in real conversations online. Conversations is where your influence truly lives, though. What you contribute to each conversation can help others' see your opinion more clearly and, perhaps, positively influence how they think about something else. Search out ways for you to start joining conversations, and not just fill up your engagement piggy bank.
Some of these things may seem like common sense ideas, but when you do a self-audit I guarantee you're not paying as close attention as you should be to what vibe you are putting out on social media. It's so easy to get caught up in the negative news cycle and strong opinions, that we forget people are listening to what we have to say and its impacting how they leave social media feeling at the end of the day. Take some time this week and think about how you are influencing the world with your voice --> do you want to be a positive or a negative influencer? After all, we are all influencers to our own communities.
- Marji J. Sherman